Thursday, July 29, 2010

Broad Channel Vollies Set to Get New Home by Bryan Yurcan - Queens Chronicle

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After years of jumping through beaureaucratic hoops, the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department appears to be on track to get a new firehouse.

A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park) and state Senator Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) that would allow the state Department of Transportation to be in charge of the project passed both houses of the Legislature this month. The project had been under the city DOT’s purview, but the city had said it wouldn’t pursue the project, deeming it unnecessary.

“With this bill giving the state control of the project, we think this is finally going to happen,” said Pheffer

This is just the latest news in the long and convoluted history of the project.

In 2005, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens and Brooklyn) and then-Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-New York) placed $2 million in the next year’s Omnibus Transportation Bill to fund a new firehouse for the department.

However, the city DOT had to approve the spending, which it never did. The agency is mandated by Federal Highway Administration rules to have complete control of such a project from start to finish.

The city told the vollies it didn’t think the project was necessary, that the fire department underestimated the cost of its project and the city didn’t have the $3.9 million in matching funds it claimed the plan required.

But with the legislation that puts the state Dormitory Authority in charge, Pheffer believes the vollies’ long quest for a new headquarters may be nearing an end.

“The city never moved on this project,” Pheffer said. “There still may be a bump here or there along the way, but at least now it looks like this thing will finally get done.”

There is no timeline as to when the project may be completed, or even started, but Pheffer said the legislation is the first step towards bringing the project out of the four-year limbo it’s been in.

The new firehouse will be an “exciting project” she said, citing among other things that it will be partially powered by solar energy.

Though the legislation is expected to finally get the project moving, Pheffer said, considering the delays that have already occurred she understands there still may be skepticism.

“I think we’ll all be happy when we see a shovel in the ground,” she said.