The 105-year-old Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department firehouse began to show its age about a decade ago. Since then, the BCVFD has been trying to relocate.
Turns out it will be unable to do so: the city is going to decline being the project’s local sponsor, according to a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Without the city’s sponsorship, the department won’t get the $2 million federal earmark Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Queens and Brooklyn) and Sen. Hillary Clinton secured for the BCVFD’s project in 2005.
“We have a lot of respect for both the history and the service of this volunteer department ... but considering that FDNY does not support the project, we cannot justify the lasting expense associated with accepting the earmark, particularly considering the difficult fiscal climate that we’re currently in,” Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna said.
Because the funding would be channeled through a federal transportation bill, the city must not only meet certain requirements in order to accept it, but it would also be held liable for any remaining costs and for maintaining the property for its entire useful life, which could be 30 to 50 years, LaVorgna noted.
The project alone would cost $5.9 million, costing the city $3.9 million off the bat, he said, adding that the city would also have to spend money and resources ensuring the project’s compliance with federal and state rules, conducting audits and certifying that the project meets federal rules and regulations.
Meeting the requirements would involve the city Department of Transportation, Fire Department, Office of Management and Budget, Department of Design and Construction and the Office of the City Comptroller.
“It is certainly not the case that this is just free money we are turning away,” LaVorgna said. “It is an earmark that comes at a significant expense to the city.”
There would be no problem, he added, had the earmark not been routed through the federal transportation bill — which in turn must go through the State Transportation Improvement Plan and the local municipality.
“The earmark should be sent directly to the volunteer fire department, not routed through the city,” LaVorgna said. “We would be more than happy to see that happen. ... We’d be very supportive of that.”
In a letter to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Weiner insisted that the city accept the earmark. He praised the BCVFD, calling it “a terrific organization that serves a lifesaving function,” as it provides emergency response to an isolated part of the borough.
Weiner wrote that he and Clinton fought hard to secure the funds and the only obstacle to getting them is a sign-off by the DOT. “The plans are drafted,” he wrote. “The money is waiting. Only you can cut the last piece of red tape. I encourage you to do so at once.”