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City Planning Approves New Location for Queens Firehouse

“The Beach House” Fire House at 257 Beach 116 Street, Rockaway Park. Image credit: FDNY

The City Planning Commission approved the relocation of a Rockaway Park FDNY station. On August 23, 2017, the New York City Planning Commission issued a favorable report on the FDNY’s application to purchase property located at 116-11 Beach Channel Drive to construct a new firehouse. Engine 268/Ladder 137 of the New York City Fire Department currently operates at 257 Beach 116th Street in Rockaway Park, Queens. The three-story, 10,098-square-foot building was built in 1913 by Frank J. Helmie in the Colonial Revival style. After damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, the FDNY determined that the building was past its useful life as a firehouse. In 2013, the building received landmark status.

The proposed site is an 18,985-square-foot lot that was formerly leased to HSBC Bank, but was vacated due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. The site is currently occupied by a single-story building and surface parking lot. The FDNY intends to construct a two-story, 13,000-square-foot building to house the engine and ladder companies equipment, as well as space for other programs and operations. The FDNY also expects to have ten accessory parking spaces on site. The new building—located withing an A flood hazard zone with a base flood elevation of ten feet according to FEMA—will meet all flood resiliency standards.

On June 13, 2017, Queens Community Board 14 voted 20-5 to recommend disapproval of the application. The community board noted its understanding of the need for a new firehouse in the community, but stated it would be more appropriate for the vehicle storage and parking to be located completely above the flood hazard zone. The board recommended that the FDNY consider the large Long Island Power Authority site at B 112 Street and Beach Channel Drive.

On July 20, 2017, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz recommended approval of the application with conditions. The borough president acknowledged the community boards concerns and recommended that the FDNY evaluate the feasibility of the alternative site. The borough president also recommended that the current, landmarked firehouse be adapted as a cultural and arts center for the community.

In a letter to the Commission, the FDNY stated that it had looked into the alternative site proposed, which is currently undergoing decontamination form the by-products of gas production released on the site. The end date of that clean-up is unknown.

In its report, the City Planning Commission found that the new site would allow the FDNY to more effectively serve the Rockaway peninsula. The Commission acknowledged the FDNY’s letter, and further pointed out that the alternative site would place the new firehouse closer to an existing firehouse at Beach 94th Street and increase emergency response times. The alternative site also, when environmentally sound, has good access to mass transit including the Ferry that could be better utilized than by a firehouse. The Commission recommended that the Department of Citywide Administrative Services work with the community to identify a reuse for the landmarked building.

CPC: Engine 268-Ladder 137 Firehouse (C 170351 PCQ) (Aug. 23, 2017).

By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).