Usually firemen are rushing into other peoples’ homes to rescue them. Yesterday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission was the savior, going into five different turn-of-the-century firehouses to consider them for preservation.
In addition to tabling the Rainbow Room and designating a Queens cemetery as the city’s newest landmark, the commission also calendared five historic firehouses, two each from the Bronx and Brooklyn and one from Queens. This follows the designation in June of three old firehouses in the Bronx and Queens [PDF].
The effort is part of a big push by the commission to preserve historic municipal architecture. This has long been important, but the commission is putting added emphasis on it in the coming year. Recently, staff conducted a survey of 16 police precincts in Brooklyn; 23 firehouses in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island; 16 public schools in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn; and 15 libraries in Brooklyn. Some number of these will doubtless go before the commission in the coming months, though not necessarily all of them—only those deemed exemplary examples of period architecture or possessing special historic significance.
“One of our priorities, in addition to extending landmark status to more sites and neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, is to protect New York City’s great public architecture,” Commission Chair Robert Tierney told The Observer. “These municipal buildings and structures were an expression of civic pride and ambition that in many ways define us as a city then and now.”
Since Mr. Tierney took over the commission nine years ago, it has designated more than two dozen municipal landmarks, including the 10 well-known Robert Moses-era WPA pools; a public bath on 54th Street, now a Parks Department rec center; eight firehouses, including the three in June (but not these five new ones); four libraries; four public schools; the Long Island Branch of the New York State Supreme Court in Queens; and Morningside Park.
“They anchored the neighborhoods they originally served and were designed with that role in mind,” Mr. Tierney said. “They are the ultimate expressions of civic character. They also reflect the City’s aspirations and sent a signal about the direction in which it was headed, and they set a benchmark for great design for the City’s public projects that continues to this day.”
You can see in the accompanying slideshow the five firehouses just proposed as well as the three that were approved in June, all with text from the commission explaining their significance.