The Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) is arguably the best-known fire department in the world. Its members are known not only for their lifesaving work, but also as a community presence and, thanks to items like their famous calendar, a part of the popular culture. In 2015, they're set to mark their 150th anniversary.
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New Yorkers and visitors all benefit from the department's work to protect against fires and other emergencies—and if you'd like to learn more about the organization, this sesquicentennial makes for good timing.
We reached out to Honorary Deputy Chief Gary Urbanowicz, an FDNY historian and son of a longtime New York City firefighter, for some tips on what visitors can see and do to mark the occasion. Here are some of his ideas:
• Go to the New York City Fire Museum.
“[The building] has a soft spot in my heart, because my father worked in that firehouse,” Urbanowicz says. The museum, located in SoHo's former Engine Company No. 30, displays a rich trove of equipment, artifacts and art spanning the department's entire history. It's a treat for those fascinated by the FDNY while also serving as an accessible starting point for novices.
• Visit historic firehouses.
New York City is home to a number of firehouses that are notable for their architecture and history. Here are some of Urbanowicz's favorites:
- Engine 55, 363 Broome St., Manhattan. This Little Italy firehouse “has decorations that are really beautiful,” he says.
- Engine 31, 87 Lafayette St., Manhattan. “[It's] an absolutely gorgeous, very large fire house. It looks like a Swiss chalet.”
- Hook and Ladder 8 (the Ghostbusters firehouse), 14 North Moore St., Manhattan. You know this one from the 1984 movie. As far as we know, its inhabitants really fight fires, not ghosts.
- Ladder 79, 1189 Castleton Ave., Staten Island. This is the oldest firehouse in Staten Island, built in 1905.
- Engine 265 and Ladder 121, 48-06 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Queens. While this structure was built barely a decade ago, it houses a bell from the firehouse originally occupied by its companies beginning in 1905. The bell itself dates all the way back to the Far Rockaway Volunteer Fire Department, which served the area before the FDNY.
- Engine 73, 659 Prospect Ave., and Ladder 42, 661 Prospect Ave, The Bronx. This is one of several pairs of side-by-side firehouses in the City.
- The Old Brooklyn Fire Headquarters, 365–367 Jay St., Brooklyn. The landmark Romanesque Revival building still stands, though NYC now has only one fire department—whose modern headquarters are located in the same Brooklyn neighborhood.
• Don't forget to check out more modern facilities, too.
The newest FDNY buildings don't necessarily conform to traditional ideas about what firehouses look like. “I think the department's quite proud of their accomplishments in the newest architecture they're employing,” says Urbanowicz.
- FDNY Headquarters, 9 MetroTech Center, Brooklyn.
- Marine Company 9, 392 Front St., Staten Island. “It's energy efficient, it's got grass growing on the roof—it's gorgeous.”
- EMS Station, 243 East 233rd St., The Bronx. “[It's] ultramodern and energy efficient.”