Cobble Hillians try to reignite mayor’s passion for reopening Engine 204 • Brooklyn Paper

Cobble Hillians try to reignite mayor’s passion for reopening Engine 204

Going down in a blaze of glory: Then-Councilman Bill DeBlasio and still-actor Steve Buscemi link arms while protesting the closure of Engine 204 in 2003.
The Brooklyn Papers / Tom Callan

Cobble Hill’s community board is reigniting its long-smoldering campaign to reopen the neighborhood’s old firehouse ahead of a population boom — but first it must rekindle a fire inside Mayor DeBlasio!

Hizzoner was famously arrested alongside local actor and former firefighter Steve Buscemi while protesting the closure of Engine 204 back in 2003, and members of Community Board 6 are hoping they can bring him on board by reawakening that white-hot passion for Brownstone Brooklyn’s Bravest.

“If the mayor was willing to allow himself to be arrested for a cause that was close to his heart and important to our community, he might take a fresh look at this issue now that there’s even more justification for bringing back a firehouse,” said the panel’s district manager Craig Hammerman.

Getting the DeGraw Street station up and running again is the board’s top request for the city’s recent 2018 budget — although the community’s desire to bring it back has never died down entirely since Mayor Bloomberg axed the firehouse as a cost-cutting measure 14 years ago.

At the time, the city said nearby engines in Brooklyn Heights, Gowanus, and Red Hook could handle the extra heat. But now that massive residential towers are looming on the horizon at the old Long Island College Hospital campus, locals argue it is finally time to bring in some more heroes to serve the influx of new residents.

“With all of the new development coming, we’re going to need more firehouses,” said Amy Breedlove, president of local civic group the Cobble Hill Association.

To make matters more urgent, the old Engine 204 firehouse is currently sitting empty after a deal to lease it to the now defunct Brooklyn Philharmonic fizzled out — hence “defunct” — and the board wants the city to reclaim it now before developers start circling.

If Hammerman can just sit down with DeBlasio to plead the community’s case, he is positive he can set the blaze in the mayor’s belly alight once again.

“I’ve been pestering the mayor’s office and they’ve been unable to get us any kind of response whatsoever,” he said. “It’s frustrating because we do believe that this issue is important to DeBlasio personally and if we can get to him he might actually have a strong opinion on the matter.”

But DeBlasio’s ears aren’t burning. City Hall declined to comment and redirected questions to the Fire Department, which said there are no plans to reopen the station anytime soon as the need just isn’t there, and claimed response times of nearby trucks are faster than most in the city — although the agency refused to give exact figures.

And a local city-planning expert reluctantly agrees that modern advances in fire safety means 204 just isn’t needed anymore.

“I was one of the people who cried when they closed 204,” said Cobble Hill resident David Burney, a professor at Pratt Institute and the city’s former design and construction commissioner, who fondly remembers walking by Engine 204 with his kids and watching the firemen wash their trucks. “But we don’t really need a firehouse there. The old brownstone firehouses were built in the days before there were sprinklers and fire-safety precautions.”

Buscemi’s people did not return requests for comment.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Bring it back: Craig Hammerman and Amy Breedlove recreate Steve Buscemi and Mayor DeBlasio’s famous fight to save Engine 204 in Cobble Hill.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

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