Construction will close Beekman firehouse temporarily


By Julie Shapiro

Another Lower Manhattan fire company will close its doors this fall, but this time the reason isn’t budget cuts — it’s construction.

Engine 6 on Beekman St. will have to find a new home for seven months starting in October, because the city is closing the street in front of the firehouse for utility work.

The Fire Dept. has not decided where Engine 6 will move, said Steve Ritea, an F.D.N.Y. spokesperson.

“I’m certain we will find a place within that area,” Ritea said. “We want to keep them in the same area or as close to it as possible.”

Engine 6 could move into the Engine 4/Ladder 15 house on South St., which is quieter than usual now that the city has eliminated Engine 4 at night and plans to eliminate it entirely to save money.

“That’s obviously very concerning,” said Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1, when told of Engine 6’s move. “Any moving or closing of any Fire Dept. in the Lower Manhattan community should of course be avoided because of the unique risk Lower Manhattan continues to face.”

Firefighters at the Engine 6 house sounded surprised by the news on a recent evening.

“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” one firefighter said. Several firefighters declined to comment, saying they were not allowed to speak to reporters.

Lt. Michael Vindigni, with Engine 7 in Tribeca, said he understands the reason the city is moving the firehouse, but it’s not ideal.

“It’s always a big deal if you move a company out of a neighborhood,” Vindigni said. “It’s almost like closing them.”

Vindigni said it’s not unusual for fire companies to temporarily move into other firehouses when their houses are undergoing repairs. Moves can increase response times “a little bit,” Vindigni said, but as long as the house stays in Lower Manhattan, Vindigni did not predict a large impact on the community.

The city will start closing the block of Beekman St. between William and Gold Sts. in April but will not reach the part of the block with the firehouse until October, said Craig Chin, spokesperson for the city Dept. of Design and Construction.

“The Fire Dept. still has time to decide what to do,” Chin said. “We’ve been working with them. We’ve made our plans available.”

As part of the street reconstruction, Con Edison will repair transformer vaults and the city will replace sewers, moving from west to east, Chin said. The block will reopen by the end of April 2010, allowing the firehouse to return, he said.