City's hot to sell off closed firehouses - for millions

NY Daily News - October 13, 2006

by MELISSA GRACE and ELIZABETH HAYS

Shuttered firehouses in some of the city's hottest neighborhoods could soon end up on the auction block with multimillion-dollar price tags.

Three years after Mayor Bloomberg outraged some neighborhood leaders by closing several firehouses to save money, City Hall is quietly preparing to sell several of the buildings, officials said yesterday.

Engine 212 in Williamsburg, Engine 204 in Cobble Hill and Engine 36 in Harlem have been declared "surplus property" by the Fire Department and will be unloaded by City Hall - even though activists are still clamoring to have the buildings reopened, city officials said.

Real estate agents said the firehouses could fetch at least $2 million each from developers seeking to build luxury homes.

"This is a huge mistake," said City Councilman Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn), who made headlines in 2003 when he got arrested with actor Steve Buscemi and others for trying to stop the closing of Engine 204.

"The final slap in our face is selling the buildings," fumed Williamsburg activist Phil DePaolo.

The city also plans to sell Engine 15 on Henry St. in lower Manhattan and Engine 265 and Ladder 121 in Queens, but unlike other areas, there has been little opposition to their closure.

Before the firehouses can be sold, the plan must go through a public review, which takes at least seven months.

Officials said it is too soon to know what the buildings will become - though possibilities include community centers, affordable housing or luxury condos.

Firefighters union President Steve Cassidy blasted the city for moving to sell firehouses in thriving neighborhoods.

"In this age of terrorism, the Fire Department should be expanding its assets - not selling them off," he said