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Ridgewood fire company’s closing stirs worry

A Brooklyn fire engine company that covers part of Ridgewood was previously slated for nighttime closure, but now faces elimination altogether, elected officials and civic leaders warned Monday.

Speaking at a meeting of Citizens for a Better Ridgewood, City Councilwomen Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village) and Diana Reyna (D−Brooklyn) said the FDNY has announced that Engine Co. 271 is one of 16 units citywide that will close July 1 as part of the department’s plan to cut its operating budget by 7 percent for the 2010 fiscal year.

“This is not about money,” Reyna said, noting she asked Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta whether the company could be spared if the funding was located. “The commissioner’s response was a hard and fast ‘We will continue with the plan.’ ”

Michael Hetzer, president of the civic group, said they would conduct a letter−writing campaign to city officials in the hopes of sparing the engine company.

Engine 271’s coverage area is 60 percent in Brooklyn and 40 percent in Ridgewood, said Deputy Assistant Chief John Sudnik, the Queens borough commander. The closure will increase response time by 20 seconds to 3 minutes 40 seconds, below the citywide average of 4 minutes, he told the meeting’s attendees.

Representatives from firefighters unions also attending the meeting were not placated by Sudnik’s figures.

John Kelly, who represents the uniformed firefighters union, said the city’s response time estimates are based on ideal conditions.

“This is New York City. There’s traffic jams and planes crashing into buildings,” he said. “The next company is twice the distance. I’m not a gambler. I don’t want to take that shot.”

Residents of the neighborhoods were also skeptical about the response times.

“I was here when Bushwick burned down,” said Democratic District Leader Maritza Davila, referring to the recession of the 1970s when the city closed numerous firehouses. “Co. 271 is in an area where all the houses are wooden−framed.”

Eddie Bowles, who works for the fire officers’ union, warned that Engine 271 performed more than 800 medical aid runs last year and warned that the other unit occupying the firehouse on Himrod Street is a ladder truck company that does not include paramedics.

“You take 271 Engine out of Bushwick and you’re going to see people die,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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