Community Board Five offered full support in landmarking the firehouse at 56-29 68th Street, in Maspeth. Residents are pushing hard to convince the Landmarks Preservation Commission that the building is worthy of designation. Now the Forum Newsgroup reports that “CB 5 members have agreed to send a letter to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to back landmarking the firehouse that will turn 100 in 2014.” The board is asking Landmarks to wave the “30-year rule” in regards to the LPC requiring a 30-year minimum in historic relevance. Residents hope that the firehouse’s role in September 11th will count toward designation — this location lost a total of 19 men, more than any other firehouse in New York. The community’s next step will be asking elected officials to write to the LPC to express support of waiving the 30-year rule and of landmarking the structure.
Over the summer a group of Maspeth residents started pushing to landmark the firehouse at 56-29 68th Street. The structure first opened as a fire station in 1914 and will celebrate its centennial next year. Residents hope to protect the brick and limestone building not just because of its age and architecture, but also because of its significance during September 11th. They also point out that Maspeth, despite a number of historic structures, is home to no landmarked buildings.
Since the first push to landmark, some residents presented their proposal to Community Board Five in late September. Steve Fisher, one of the landmarking proponents, reports that the presentation was well-received by the audience, made up of both board members and the public. The group is working with one of the community board committees in an effort to carry on the board’s consideration. Ultimately, they hope to receive a letter of recommendation from the board for landmarking. As for the Landmarks Preservation Commission, they are currently reviewing the historical documentation and letters of support from residents, members of the firehouse and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. Back in August, the LPC responded to the proposal by stating that the building is already recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. After a survey conducted by LPC of all New York firehouses, the Maspeth structure was not cited as a priority based on architectural significance. They also cannot count the events on September 11th as historically significant, since the LPC calls for a 30-year minimum regarding historic relevance.
Regardless, the firehouse proponents are not giving up. As they wrote in a followup letter, “As to the 30-year rule, we took exception to it on two counts: one, the building’s historical significant began well before 9/11; and, two, no one should have to wait until 2031 to determine that the role the building played on 9/11 is historically significant. To the first point, we said that the building had been serving the community for 100 years and that others had lost their lives while stationed there before 9/11 [William J Wandling, Jr. at age 31 on 16 Nov 1946]. To the second point, we expressed that we did not need another 18 years to know that 9/11 was a historic event; the role the Maspeth Fire House played on that day with nineteen men lost, more than any other fire house, was, indeed, historically significant.”
Last week the Queens Chronicle wrote about the effort of residents, civic leaders, and elected officials to landmark the firehouse at 59-29 68 Street in Maspeth. Residents argue that the historic significance, the importance of the station during September 11th, and the firehouse’s upcoming centennial are all reasons for landmarking. The structure first opened as a fire station in 1914. Squad 288 has operated out of the building since 1998. While residents continue to garner support from the community, they also plan to present the landmarking proposal to Community Board Five during this month’s general meeting.
Just off the corner of Steinway is 38-13 Northern Boulevard. It stands opposite the Standard Motor Products building, and at the foot of a bridge which carries Steinway Street into 39th Street and over the Sunnyside Yards.
Currently, the structure houses part of the NYPD’s ESU units: the Emergency Medical Squad. The building was originally a firehouse — the Hook and Ladder 66.
The earliest volunteer fire company in Newtown, the Wadownock Fire, Hook & Ladder No. 1, was organized in 1843. By 1902, there were 66 distinct volunteer fire departments in Queens. Nineteenth century Long Island City was served by (amongst others) the Astoria Engine Co., the Hunter Engine Co., the Mohawk Hose Co., and the Tiger Hose Co. In 1890, the legislature of New York State abolished the volunteer departments, seeking to create a paid and professional force of firefighters. In Long Island City, as many as nine units were created, and then reorganized in 1894, as rampant political corruption had rendered the new units impotent against all but the smallest blazes. This corruption was centered around Long Island City’s mayor — Patrick “Battleax” Gleason — or was at least blamed on him by his enemies in the press.
The critical date for this structure is January 1, 1898, when Long Island City joined in the municipality of the City of Greater New York, and its firefighters joined the FDNY.
Image source: NYDN – Engine Co. 268 in Rockaway Park
UPDATE: All firehouses are now city landmarks, as per the NY Times City Room.
The NY Daily News reports that Tuesday evening the Landmarks Preservation Commission scheduled a vote on city landmark designation for five firehouses throughout the city (two in the Bronx, two in Manhattan, one in Queens) and one of them is in the Rockaways. This 100-year-old building (above) is Engine Co. 268/Hook and Ladder 137 on Beach 116th St. It survived Hurricane Sandy.