On the eve of the grand opening of Hudson Yards' luxury shops, Uniformed Firefighters Association president Gerard Fitzgerald told reporters that the city made a grievous error in not requiring the construction of a new firehouse to serve the multi-billion-dollar West Side complex.
With Hudson Yards as a backdrop, Mr. Fitzgerald said the “mega-project” was expected to draw 125,000 people to live and work, “with thousands of luxury apartments in what was once a railyard.”
Puts a Point on Danger
“In what Mayor de Blasio touts as the ‘world’s safest big city’ there is another mini-city emerging on its West Side that is going to be without critical first-responders and Firefighters, putting property and lives at risk of injury and death,” he told reporters.“Frankly put, if Hudson Yards without a firehouse was an independent city, it would be regarded as the most dangerous city in America.”
Mr. Fitzgerald made the case that the city’s failure to provide an additional firehouse to serve the sprawling 28-acre complex would have an impact on other Manhattan neighborhoods. “It will also make the surrounding community more unsafe, as their respective firehouses will be tasked with responding here—limiting the role they can play in fires in their own neighborhood.”
The president of the UFA told reporters that he estimated the cost of a new firehouse, based on one now being constructed in Brooklyn, was about $32 million. He pegged the recurring personnel costs to staff it to be $4 million a year. “That’s with 45 Firefighters and eight officers,” he said.
The FDNY rejected the union’s analysis.
“There are multiple firehouses in the area surrounding Hudson Yards that will be providing coverage there,” said Deputy Fire Commissioner Francis Gribbon. “We’ll also be providing additional fire and EMS coverage inside Hudson Yards beginning tomorrow that will enhance our response capabilities for any incidents/emergencies that occur onsite while we monitor daily activity.”
He continued, “We have met multiple times with both the development team and the Fire and Life Safety directors at Hudson Yards to coordinate on response procedures as the site opens up, and are confident we’ll be able to provide adequate coverage for those who work, visit, or live at the site.”
Mr. Gribbon said that the FDNY had already conducted a comprehensive analysis on the Hudson Yards Special District which encompasses the area that includes Hudson Yards.
“Our analysis showed that, long term, we expect as development continues in the district we will need to have additional resources on the West Side,” he said in an email. “Thus, we have begun working with the Mayor’s Office to begin the process of finding space on the West Side for new Department facilities and resources.”
Didn't Anticipate Impact
Since the beginning of the decade, when the Bloomberg administration and the City Council embarked on the most-ambitious rezoning since World War II, first-responder unions repeatedly warned that the plans for major redevelopment failed to anticipate the impact that the resulting spike in population would have on the delivery of emergency services.
Council Member Joseph Borelli, who chairs the Committee on Fire and Emergency Management, told this newspaper he heard those complaints and has reported out of his committee a package of bills that would help document the impact of new development on both fire and emergency medical services before the potential negative impacts were felt.
Under the two bills forwarded by his committee Nov. 27, the Fire Department would be required to report annually on the impact on the department’s services of substantial rezoning, as well as disclose the geographical coverage of each EMS division, and their staffing levels, including the ratio of supervisors to rank-and-file workers.
“One of the bills forces the City Council and [the] City Planning [Commission] to take into account fire and emergency services when we do rezoning in the future, and the second bill is an examination of staffing ratios of EMS supervisors to EMS technicians,” Mr. Borelli said in a phone interview. “Both of these have been a problem in the past, and we will only see more problems as we have additional re-zonings.”
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