More than $2 million allocated by the state for the reconstruction of the Edgewater Park Firehouse still has not been dispersed, leaving residents hoping for a Hail Mary before the funds expire in February.
With the deadline imminent, Democratic state Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Progressives like state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and District 13 Councilwoman-elect Marjorie Velázquez are advocating on behalf of area residents for the state to help complete a project that includes rehabilitating and hardening the structure of the firehouse, purchasing a generator and fuel tank, upgrading the electrical systems, installing an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) platform lift and improving the exterior and interior lighting.
However, the project has come to a complete standstill since summer 2020.
Residents are hopeful that lawmakers can convince the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR) to roll the money over and that the pols would be able to allocate additional funds for the project.
“I called up the Governor’s Office immediately after a [recent] conversation with the Edgewater Park residents and they said they were going to look into it,” Benedetto said.
The Edgewater Park Owners Cooperative had previously sent a letter to the GOSR expressing its concerns with the situation.
“Our intentions are to save the funding that has been allocated to the construction of the Edgewater Relief Center by rolling these funds into a future fiscal year, thereby preserving them from expiring and ensuring that they can be there for future use for this project,” the letter said.
Since 2014, GOSR has invested more than $64 million in the Bronx, including $2.2 million allocated to renovate the firehouse/community center in Edgewater Park. Serving as a safe haven during storms, the co-op board wanted to upgrade the firehouse using financial assistance from the state.
Deborah Roff, president of the Edgewater Park Owners Cooperative Inc., told the Bronx Times that the board agreed to also renovate the bathroom and make it ADA compliant. So, in 2019, the co-op hired a company to demo the bathroom with the expectation that the state was going to finish the rest of the work.
The state opened bids for the full project in January 2020, but by June 2020 a contract couldn’t be awarded because the lowest bids were more than 50% over budget. Today, the project remains unfinished.
According to Roff, it seems like projects to improve the Bronx are being left out in the cold, while NYC spends $1.5 billion to elevate parks on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
“Here we are in Edgewater, and we don’t have a functioning resource center,” she said. “Why is our community being excluded?”
Roff said the local firehouse is a huge part of the community. As the roads in Edgewater Park are too narrow for the FDNY to drive through, the smaller trucks at the volunteer firehouse can be a lifeline for residents. She stressed that people were excited for the planned renovations, but after two years, it seems they have been forgotten about.
The elected officials have really stepped up and are trying to solve the situation, Roff said.
“Our representatives are assuring us that we don’t have to concern ourselves with the funds rolling over,” she said. “If we lose our firehouse we would be in real trouble. The state dropped the ball, and we don’t know if they dropped it intentionally or if there were more important projects.”
Paul Onyx Lozito, deputy executive director for the housing program at GOSR, said the firehouse will be receiving the necessary monies.
“GOSR has identified a path forward to construct improvements to Edgewater Park’s North Tower and will be briefing elected officials and community members in the coming weeks,” Lozito said.
Reach Jason Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.