Mount Vernonites Distanced Over a Lack of Rationale Regarding the Prospect of Closing the Station 4 (Oak Street Firehouse) Due to the Intellectually and Morally Exhausted Presiding Elected Members of the City of Mount Vernon
The befuddled protagonists who attended the Mount Vernon City Council meeting of August 11, 2021 were in alphabetical order: Lisa Copeland, Janice Duarte, Delia Farquharson, Marcus Griffith, Shawyn Patterson-Howard, and Derrick Thompson
MOUNT VERNON, NY — August 23, 2021 — The Mount Vernon City Council meeting of August 11, 2021 was intended to contend with the proposed relocation of Mount Vernon Fire Station 4, a/k/a Oak Street Firehouse, to S West Street. “The temporary repair to Fire Station 4 is necessitated by its dilapidated condition which is in such a state that it can only be defined as a health hazard that is deleterious to the well-being of Mount Vernon Fire Department personnel” wrote Councilmember Duarte. At the August 11, 2021 meeting, addressing Mayor Shawyn Patterson Howard and the MV Councilmembership…
Councilmember Janice Duarte wrote, ““Good evening Mayor Patterson-Howard and Council Members,
“At the City Council meeting on 8/11/21, I stated that I had concerns about the relocation plan to S West Street. More importantly, I stated that I support and I am committed to advancing the repair and reopening of the Oak Street Firehouse as expeditiously as possible.
“It was approximately a week earlier that the MVFD divulged that it was their intent to relocate the Engine 4 apparatuses to Station 3 situated on W Third Street. They issued the following statement: “We anticipate minimal impact in response times in the area. Our confidence here comes in large part due to the fact that we now have access to our MTA abridges … Sixth Avenue, 10th Avenue, and now Third Avenue … and … most importantly is that we will have an ongoing scheduled presence in the area by having our Engine 4 units patrol and respond regularly day and night, Monday through Sunday.”
“If the MV Fire Leadership has confidence in minimal impact to response times to the area, responding from the 3rd Street Firehouse, then the sense of urgency is misplaced in finding a relocation site for Engine 4. The matter of REAL urgency is in the repair and reopening of the Oak Street Firehouse as soon as is possible.
“Just as the City Council approved at the August 11th, 2021 meeting, legislation authorizing the repair of the Armory roof, the same can be done for the Oak Street Firehouse. An updated and independent engineer’s assessment report, similar to the report from 2012, delineating the repairs needed and proposed costs can be obtained quickly to better inform and guide the City’s next steps.
“The COVID health concerns at the 3rd Street firehouse are better mitigated in several ways, such as, requiring vaccinations (scientific fact).
“Before we discuss SINKING taxpayer funds into a privately owned property, we need to review all city owned property that can be invested in and improved for longer-term use. I have specifically requested to tour other city owned sites including the 6th Ave Firehouse. You have yet to respond to my verbal request and now I make it formal in writing. In addition, were other sites proposed by FDMV for your consideration? As part of this request, please provide the City Council with all documents, reports or plans from the Fire Department regarding possible sites that can be used as temporary alternatives.”
“The proposed S West Street site raises the following concerns:
- The full cost to the City is UNKNOWN. In addition to the annual rent, there is no cost analysis for the heated enclosure for the Fire Engine, insurance, preparation of the site with needed communications equipment and accommodations, etc.
- Response time will deteriorate based on this location. Traffic patterns, fire truck egress requirements, commercial parking and activity are all impediments to a quick response time. The location WILL put residents at risk compared to the current temporary location at the 3rd St Firehouse.
- Property owner is in violation of site plan approvals and City Council ordinances. If anything, they should be paying the City to clear their violations, rather than the City rewarding them with a lease agreement.
- ARPA funds are budgeted for City-owned properties. This is NOT a City-owned property. Therefore the identified funding in the words of the Comptroller is “defective.”
- Lease requirements will necessitate an advance of 6 months rent prepaid plus 2 month security deposit. Will the Comptroller even comply to make this request feasible?
- Accepting this scenario is EQUIVALENT to “kicking the can down the road” because the Oak Street firehouse would remain without a plan to be restored to operational status.”
“Funding to fix the Oak Street Firehouse is no longer an impediment because of the availability of ARPA funds. I would support the City Council declare an emergency to waive the procurement requirements, so that you and your commissioners can obtain an updated engineer’s report and plan to repair, restore and reopen the Oak Street Firehouse as expeditiously as possible. Anything short of this is a misuse of taxpayer funds,” concluded Councilwoman Janice Duarte
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Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard wrote the following by addressing The Honorable Council Body and Interested Parties…
“Councilman Thompson thank you for understanding the urgency of this situation and doing everything in your power to move this urgent issue along.
“I have been questioned as to the “Quick Decision” and why was this location selected. This was not a quick decision; it was a necessary decision that required leadership. As the Mayor, I am required to make very tough decisions especially when it comes to public safety. This is not about political expediency, it is about PUBLIC SAFETY. The safety of our Firefighters was at risk even as it was documented by the NY State Department of Labor PESH. Commissioner Norman and Chief Odindo testified as to the urgency of the situation at the ARP Budget Hearing on August 11th. Engineering reports dating back to 2012 supported this decision. Where was the rush?
“Why did I act now? Again, the firefighters health and safety were increasingly at risk. The mold in the firehouse was spreading and impacting the air quality in the station. The floor on which the apparatuses sit is crumbling and again PESH was advancing their case against the City. Most importantly, I made the decision because it was a responsible decision to make. We cannot continue to kick the can down the road. I am not blaming anyone for the inaction of the past but I am concerned about the inaction of the present.
- “On August 5th I contacted the council about the imminent relocation of the Station 4 Fire House. Councilmembers Thompson, Duarte and Griffith joined a tour of the firehouse.
- “On August 6th I called an emergency meeting where Councilmember Thompson was present and Council President Griffith and Councilmember Duarte joined later.
- “On Tuesday, the 10th after the MTA bridge reopening councilmembers were invited to join our city engineer, public works, corporation counsel and fire administration and councilmember Thompson to visit the 6th Avenue Firehouse. The tour showed that the firehouse was in similar to worse condition that the Oak Street Firehouse. I encouraged the city council to reach out to Joe Apicella and fire leadership on the relocation. I also asked for any suggestions or plans for alternative site, to date I have received nothing.
- “On August 11th, Chief Odindo and Commissioner Norman spoke before the city council concerning these issues during the ARP hearing. Both were available to answer questions during the regular session of the City Council, but neither were permitted to speak. This was even after Councilmember Copeland asked to let them speak. The council thought it was better to have them speak in executive session, yet none has yet been held.
- “On Friday, August 13th I requested a “Special Meeting” of the Council to be called to discuss and/or vote on legislation for the “Temporary Firehouse Location.” As of now, no meeting has been scheduled. On Friday, I also reached out and spoke at length with Council President Griffith who also spoke with Chief Odindo. Again, I encouraged a meeting with Apicella or for the Council to seek an alternative location or provide questions to which myself or FDMV leadership could respond. I spoke with Councilperson Copeland and Thompson and placed several calls to Councilwoman Duarte for which I received no call back.
“I was told that a vote was not called because there might not be enough votes. Then call for the vote and with transparency vote it down publicly or state your concerns in writing or through a special meeting so they can be addressed. I was also told that a “Special Meeting” may not be called because there may not be a quorum. Additionally, I was told that members may be traveling at the end of the week meaning there may not be a quorum later this week. Do you have any idea when the Council might have a moment in your obviously busy schedule to schedule a meeting to address this urgent issue of public safety?
“Does the Council have an alternative solution to house Station 4 on THE WEST SIDE? If not, when will you have a plan?
“Has anyone on the Council reached out to any property owners on the West Side to look for another location?
“Are there questions that you have not received answers for?
“Again, I ask you to consider the urgency of the issue as it will take two to three weeks to prepare the space. They will not start work without a letter of intent.”
Mayor Shawyn Patterson Howard, MPA
“On August 16, 2021, Derrick Thompson entered the discussion by writing, “Good afternoon team. I have everyone on this thread to get some resolve regarding our stance on the firehouse conditions and what our plans are going forward. It is important that we all understand COVID is still an ongoing issue and it is unsafe to have OUR firefighters packed into one building. I pray daily that we don’t have a covid case occur that would shut the firehouse down leaving us more vulnerable due to lack of man power available afterwards. I believe it to be in the best interest of the COMMUNITY to grant temporary permission for firefighters to relocate to the west side immediately before unforeseen dangers occur. I know these are trying times, but please let’s not wait for one if our residents to pass away from a fire before we act. Lets be proactive instead of reactive to preventable situations. Our residents are counting on us to make decisions to ensure their safety on a daily basis. If more information is needed, please reach out and get the information before our residents and/or firefighters are harmed.
“Thank you in advance for doing what’s right!” concluded Derrick Thompson.