FDNY summoned to Pier 17 for second time in a week

The south flank of Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport, where 40 firefighters converged on the morning of July 18 because of a smoking electrical outlet. This was the second time in four days that the FDNY had to be called to the pier to extinguish a fire. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER  |  For the second time in less than a week, the New York Fire Department had to be summoned to Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport.

On Wednesday, July 18, a security guard noticed smoke on the far south face of Pier 17. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Fire Department was called,” said Michael Piazzola,  Senior General Manager, The Howard Hughes Corp, which has a long-term lease on the pier. “The plug has been de-energized and will be replaced by a licensed electrician.”

A Fire Department spokesman said that the call came in at 11:13 a.m. Engine 4, Ladder 15; Engine 10, Ladder 10 and Battalion 2 responded with a total of around 40 firefighters. The fire was declared under control at 11:40 a.m.

Piazzola declined to characterize what happened as a fire. He said it was “a smoke situation.”

He said that Howard Hughes intends to inspect the entire electrical system under the pier.

On Saturday, July 14, a large fire occurred on Pier 17 shortly before 4 p.m. causing thick, black smoke to billow over the East River. The pier was evacuated as 138 firefighters extinguished the fire. The cause of that fire has not been definitively determined, but it is believed to have been started by faulty electrical wiring.

Appearing before Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee on July 17, Piazzola said that the Howard Hughes security staff had alerted storeowners to the fire, but that the Pier 17 building does not have a public address system that could have been used to tell customers to evacuate.

Fire safety laws mandating such a system were enacted long after Pier 17 was built. It was grandfathered in as not having to meet the new requirements. Piazzola said that the Howard Hughes Corp. is considering installing a public address system, but he was noncommittal as to whether this would happen.