Astoria & Long Island City

Crime & Mayhem


Bring Back Axed FDNY Engine Company Amid LIC Population Boom, Locals Urge

June 27, 2017 9:47am | Updated June 27, 2017 9:47am
Engine Company 261 was shuttered under Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2003.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

DUTCH KILLS — It's been 14 years since FDNY Engine Company 261 ceased operations in Queens — one of six fire companies that closed amid emotional protests in 2003, the result of budget cuts under the Bloomberg administration.

But now elected officials and civic leaders are pushing to bring the engine company back to its former firehouse at 37-20 29th St., saying the construction boom and exploding population in Long Island City warrants more emergency resources nearby.

"The cranes are everywhere, the buildings are going up, and with that means more residents and more needs," State Sen. Michael Gianaris said during a press conference Friday.

"Let's get smart. Let's get proactive," he added. "When we see tens of thousands of new residents coming to an area, let's make sure that the needs are met before a life is lost."

The company's former firehouse on 29th Street between 37th and 38th avenues has remained active in the years since it was axed, as the building is still home to FDNY Ladder Company 116, which provides rigs with ladders to emergency scenes.

But Engine Company 261 provided the hoses and water to actually extinguish fires, and local leaders having been pushing to bring it back since former Mayor Michael Bloomberg shuttered it, along with five others, in 2003.

The decision was met with protests at the time, as well as a lawsuit attempting to block the move — of which Bill de Blasio, then a city councilman, was one of the plaintiffs. 

George Stamatiadis, a Dutch Kills civic leader who was among those to rally against the closure more than a decade ago, said the city claimed at the time "that there wasn’t enough need for it."

But more than a decade later, Long Island City has transformed with thousands of new apartments and a surge of new hotels, locals point out.

"We have less services here than 14 years ago," said Gerard Fitzgerald, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. "It's simple math: the population goes up, safety has to goes up. We need this firehouse reopened."

In a statement, the FDNY said it "recognizes that Long Island City is a burgeoning community."

"The Fire Department is dedicated to maintaining the most efficient network of fire mitigation resources, and we continue to adapt our locations with the changing landscape and population of New York City," the statement read.

The mayor's office did not return messages seeking comment.