02 Oct Ofer Eitan Writes: Wild West: Firehouse debate heats up at WPOA
During the Western Property Owners’ Association meeting held at St. Paul’s Cluett Hall in Wednesday, September 30, the POA’s Fire House Committee presented alternatives to a plan that the Village Board has been considering.
The Village Board has been contemplating demolishing the existing fire station on the corner of Stewart Avenue and Edgemere Road and building a new fire station, complete with bays to fit the larger fire trucks the department has, plus interior accommodations. The new fire station would have an estimated cost of between $8 million and $10 million, according to estimates delivered to the village trustees in July.
The WPOA’s own committee consists of volunteers who have evaluated conditions for the fire station. Architect Cosmo Veneziale, an architect specializing in preservation, led the presentation on Wednesday night and received applause from an audience of about 45 attendees. Following his opening remarks, he delivered a history of the structure, which was built in 1930. He also provided slides showcasing the current firehouse and potential expansions on its sides to accommodate GCFD apparatus.
Veneziale challenged the communication chain the Village of Garden City and its consulting architecture firm PKAD Architecture & Design — have had about the project, as the WPOA committee has requested information, of which Cosmo says roughly 50% has been delivered.
“PKAD is proposing a new construction, 10,000 square-foot firehouse of almost $10 million, possibly more. Our Committee analyzed the existing firehouse and we know it can be restored and we can accommodate the GCFD program with vehicles/apparatus. The bottom line is the alternative proposal will save the village money and we won’t have to have a gargantuan fire station in the western section of town. We have been very diligent and very patient, and we have asked for information from the village but we only received 40% to 50% of what we’ve requested at best….and I know that as an architect we’ll have greater flexibility with the Committee’s proposed design than PKAD’s,” Veneziale commented.
Earlier report said is building sound
Initially, the Board of Trustees commissioned a structural conditions assessment of the structure by Cameron Engineering, prior to hiring architect PKAD for the project. At that time, Cameron Engineering stated the fire station building was structurally-sound, overall, and there was discussion of accommodating the GCFD’s larger ladder truck.
Deputy Mayor Robert Bolebruch informed the WPOA audience that ultimately there would be a follow-up presentation by PKAD, expected at either the October 15 or November 5 Village Board meeting. A resident asked if there would be community-wide input for the ultimate decision on the firehouse. Bolebruch replied that there will be a vote by the eight village trustees on expenditure for the project, following the next PKAD presentation and evaluation of all the input the village receives. He vowed to not cast his vote until hearing and evaluating the proposals, including the alternate plans Veneziale and WPOA subcommittee members presented on Wednesday.
“The bottom line is we (the Board) will sit there and make comparisons of what Cosmo is presenting and what we are dealing with — the trustees will be happy to do that,” he noted. There have also been several questions and comments emailed to Bolebruch from the subcommittee, and WPOA Committee member Maureen Dellacona stated he’s been working to find out answers to all the questions being posed.
T.J. Michon — the WPOA’s vice president and a former professional (paid) firefighter in the village for over 18 years, also the former head of the Garden City Professional Fire Fighters’ union, is on the WPOA Station No. 2 Committee. At Wednesday’s meeting, he questioned Bolebruch on why PKAD was not originally aware of the plans for Station No. 2 to house the larger ladder truck, which the Cameron Engineering report referred to in their report, almost two years ago.
Michon said the result was a $42,000 change order the Board approved in August: “for the full re-design of Fire Station No. 2 to include adding an additional 2,500 square feet of usable space due to the increased size of apparatus.” Michon contends that PKAD could easily have been made aware of the fire department operations by the Village.
Cost of project debated
Bolebruch rebutted claims made online over recent months that the Station No. 2 project could cost as much as $15 million. He explains that PKAD had a window of $8 to $10 million, based on estimated costs. Bolebruch read a transcript of the board meeting aloud so residents could better grasp the financial implications.
A resident commented that the firehouse is transient as nobody lives there and there is no more paid village fire department to man the quarters. Upon hearing this Deputy Mayor Bolebruch commented that there will be volunteers spending a significant amount of time at the station. When Bolebruch suggested that new showers are needed at this station, he said in case after a call or battling a fire, the volunteers would want to shower and clean up but they have to go to main Station No. 1 on Stewart Avenue in order to do so. Michon, the two-decade firefighter and union president in his home village, stated that this was untrue and the bathroom at Station No. 2 was remodeled and upgraded not long ago.
Bolebruch stated that PKAD also has serious questions on the remaining longevity of the existing structure. He reiterated that a priority is making sure the fire station can serve the needs of firefighters, their equipment and apparatus and the needs of the community for the next century.
“There’s a combination of what you want to do (accommodations) there and the look of the firehouse building. What I hear is that we want to have a firehouse that stays within the character of what we have had here for many years — I think many people who live near here would agree with that. From what I have seen from Cosmo’s drawings is that in addition to the original building there would be additions on either side,” Bolebruch stated. Veneziale noted that these would be the east and west wings, additions on to Fire Station No. 2 that would be able to accommodate the modern-day lage fire department rigs.
“But now we are going to add two structures on either side of the existing firehouse which would then hold the fire engines. When you start to look at it that becomes continuing with the old building and now putting additional structures to this would change the look of that building. I think Cosmo and his group did bring up many good ideas and the Board of Trustees have to consider them.” Veneziale shook his head in disappointment of the characterization of sketches he presented at this week’s meeting.
During the WPOA’s meeting, resident Mike McVey commented about the comment made in February by Trustee Brian Daughney “money is cheap — we are building a new firehouse, folks.”
“What we are talking about is $10 million spent on a glorified garage — let’s not lose sight of this. The fire department is a very romanticized thing and I understand that. Fire department quarters and accommodation is very emotional for many people. My fear is with PKAD having a presentation during a Board meeting possibly in November. This should have been done back in March with the budget proceedings and not long after Trustee Daughney made that statement,” McVey told WPOA leaders as well as Deputy Mayor Bolebruch and Village Trustee Stephen Makrinos.
He also noted that in the Board of Trustees’ discussion of the historic, 113-year-old brick pattern Long Island Rail Road Nassau Boulevard station parking lot, the parking lot was called a gem. Several residents brought up the architectural significance and sense of history and pride that the current Station No. 2 conveys — representing a reason for proper historic preservation measures the structure down. Others commented that even though it is 90 years old, there are many buildings over 150 years old that receive proper structural attention and are in better condition than newer buildings made of lesser-quality materials. Veneziale and Michon both referenced the conditions report furnished to the village by Cameron Engineering.
When the Fire Station No. 2 project came up for discussion at the Board of Trustees’ August 13 meeting, GCFD Chief Thomas Strysko stated “unfortunately to keep the look of the existing firehouse we could not just change the square footage of the station — we only need the square footage on the first floor increased to accommodate the longer fire truck. Unfortunately to keep the symmetry of…