July 18, 2018
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – When unionized construction workers call out billionaire Hudson Yards developer and Related Companies founder Stephen Ross for attempting to skirt middle class wages and benefits on Phase II of the sprawling West Side project, they cite ugly, naked greed as the reason. That belief might be a little tougher to refute if developers of the largest private real estate project in U.S. history hadn’t also neglected the construction of a firehouse.
Whatever ultimately happens now — with whatever firehouse that might yet be included at Hudson Yards — that initial omission couldn’t be more telling.
Unformed Firefighters Association President Gerard Fitzgerald first raised the alarm about Hudson Yards on LaborPress’ Blue Collar Buzz podcast way back in April, incredulously pointing out that the tony hi-rise condo and retail development project is expected draw some 130,000 to 150,000 souls to “The New West Side.”
“On its own it becomes one of the top 50 cities in the country — can you imagine one of the top 50 cities in the country not having a firehouse?” Fitzgerald said. “You’re not just talking about fires — you’re talking about any emergency — medical or other that we respond to on a daily basis. And with that type of population growth, we believe that it should have been one of the first things discussed, one of the first things planned for.”
On its own it becomes one of the top 50 cities in the country — can you imagine one of the top 50 cities in the country not having a firehouse? — UFA President Gerard Fitzgerald.
That, of course, did not happen. But it gets worse. As Fitzgerald pointed out, the area surrounding Hudson Yards constitutes a whole labyrinth of problems for New York City firefighters.
“The [Lincoln] Tunnel, Penn Station, Port Authority…the flow of traffic in that area is not easy,” the UFA head continued. “Even for us to get there, it’s at a reduced rate because of traffic. Time is a problem, and because these buildings are so much taller than the buildings they replaced, now you have a vertical response that slows us down even more. Just because the rig or the firetruck is on the scene, doesn’t mean we’re there. The fire can be on the 35th floor. We still have to get up to that floor to battle the emergency; battle the blaze.”
Last fall, it took more than 100 firefighters over an hour to get control of a blaze that reportedly broke out on the 23rd floor of a 55-story building at 501 West 30th Street. Multiple floors had to be evacuated.
Related Companies calls Hudson Yards “the fulfillment of a remarkable collaboration that includes a talented group of visionaries – planners, architects, engineers, designers, public servants, fashion icons, renowned chefs, business leaders, luminaries and more” that are working “in partnership with New York’s development and transportation authorities, and with some of the world’s most iconic retail brands and leading companies – each of whom will call Hudson Yards home.”
But, again, no public firehouse?
It’s not as if the health and safety of people totally escaped developers, however. At least not the health and safety of some people. In March, the New York Times reported that a “members-only medical center” for Hudson Yards locals was in the offing.
The City of New York is reportedly studying the necessity for a new firehouse at Hudson Yards.