FDNY Symbols

You may have noticed FDNY spray paints symbols on vacant buildings. In the example below, the “X” in the box indicates that this is an abandoned building. The “FO” indicates that that floor is out (and thus a major hazard for crews who enter).

An abandoned building on Park Avenue (1881 Park Avenue) had been an ARC dormitory, but since the legal and financial implosion of ARC a few years ago it’s sat abandoned. The building has been broken into and recently caught fire. As a result, many of the windows were broken, and the FDNY sprayed “vacant” symbols on the facade:

The “E-35” indicates that the spraying was done by Engine 35, the crew that operates out of the fire station on 3rd Avenue at East 124th Street:

Spray of Ivy

The ivy shown in the photo above led me to include this photo taken from the Metro North platform of an amazing spray of ivy on the assisted living building.

Landmark East Harlem Highlights the East 111th Street Firestation

Photo of 242 E 111th Street – Engine Company 91 & Ladder Company 43 – by Matthias Helfen, 2021
Constructed from 1910-1912, this early 20th century Renaissance Revival firehouse is one of three similar structures built with a three-bay-wide, three-story design around the city. Of the three, one has already been designated by the Landmark Preservation Commission as an individual landmark in 2018 (Engine Companies 264 & 328/Ladder Company 134 at 16-15 Central Avenue).After the consolidation of the five boroughs of New York City in 1898 unleashed a flurry of municipal construction, it was a common practice to recycle designs for similar building types. This three-story structure was a standard design used at 18 different locations, “simple and dignified and without any unnecessary elaboration,” and adapted in versions with one, two, or three bays for varied urban sites. The prototype was designed by Hoppin & Koen, partners who had earlier worked in the preeminent New York City firm of McKim, Mead & White and were also the architects of the FDNY’s first headquarters.
Photos of Engine 91 shortly after firehouse completion, ca. 1915 & in 1936 via “FDNY and NYC Firehouses and Fire Companies” – nycfire.net
The firehouse was designed to be of fireproof concrete construction with a stucco finish. After bids for construction overran the appropriated funds, cost savings were achieved by substituting red brick, limestone, and cast-stone cladding. It features rusticated limestone at the ground floor, three segmental-arched vehicle bays, red brick cladding on the upper stories, and pairs of monumental brick pilasters supporting a cast stone entablature and brick parapet.Today, the building is in excellent condition and still in use as a firehouse for Engine Company 91. Landmark East Harlem is currently working with community members to make the case for LPC to protect this historic structure through designation as an individual landmark.

Join Landmark East Harlem

Who is Landmark East Harlem?+We are a coalition of organizations and individuals whose mission is to protect the special character of the neighborhood. We do this by working to secure City landmark designation and State and National Register listing for individual properties and historic districts in East Harlem. We also advocate for contextual new development and adaptive reuse of older properties.
Learn More about LEH
What are Preservation Action Alerts?+When we hear of a structure or community institution being considered for demolition or in need of preservation assistance, we’ll let you know how you can help. Come join us at a rally, sign a petition, or share a post on social media. Neighborhood preservation is a community effort!
www.LandmarkEastHarlem.org421 East 116th Street, New York
NY 10029 United States

The Fire Factory

In New York, sidewalks and roads are constantly being torn up for subsurface repairs. The eventual patches are notoriously uneven in quality, and some (especially if wet concrete) are susceptible to the lure of graffiti and the chance for a name, drawing, or slogan to be there, on the ground, possibly for decades.

While walking along a stretch of 5th Avenue sidewalk the other day, I noticed a concrete repair that had been scratched into (while wet) that said “The Fire Factory”.

This term is the nickname of Engine 58 and Ladder 26, both of which are FDNY units based in East Harlem, on 5th Avenue at 114th Street. This FDNY stationhouse has been immortalized in a couple of novels/memoirs (sometimes lightly fictionalized) by Harry J. Ahearn:

Ghetto Firefighter — published 1977
The Fire Factory — published 1988
Harlem Memories — published 1993
The Collapse: An FDNY Saga – published 2011

Ahearn was bootstrapped out of poverty by a job with the FDNY. His love of the job, the men he worked with, and the everpresent adrenalin, is palatable in every book.

For a view of this stationhouse, the men who occupied it, and glimpses of the community that they served yet remained apart from, take a look at this 30 year-old video, below:

Scaffold Exhibit at the Calabar Gallery

Make sure to check out the Calabar Gallery on FDB:

Cheerleading vs. Critical Thinking

On June 6, 2021, New York City launched a pilot program in which both mental and physical health professionals are responding to 911 mental health emergency calls. This new approach, called B-HEARD – the Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division attempts to treat mental health crises as public health problems, not public safety issues

B-HEARD teams include emergency medical technicians/paramedics from the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services and social workers from NYC Health + Hospitals. Teams operate seven days a week, 16 hours a day in the 25, 28, and 32 police precincts in East Harlem and parts of central and north Harlem.

In 2020, there were approximately 8,400 mental health 911 calls in this area (Zone 7), the highest volume of any dispatch zone in the city.

The goals of the B-HEARD pilot are to:

Route 911 mental health calls to a health-centered B-HEARD response whenever it is appropriate to do so. Calls that involve a weapon, an imminent risk of harm, or where NYPD or EMS call-takers know that an individual has an immediate need for a transport to a medical facility will continue to receive a traditional 911 response—an ambulance and police officers.

Increase connection to community-based care, reduce unnecessary transports to hospitals, and reduce unnecessary use of police resources. Before B-HEARD, mental healthcare was not delivered in communities during an emergency. Instead, emergency medical technicians/paramedics provided basic medical assistance in the field and transported those who needed mental healthcare to a hospital. Now, with B-HEARD social workers delivering care on site, emergency mental healthcare is reaching people in their homes or in public spaces for the first time in New York City’s history.

The text above is cribbed from the promotional material of BHeard that you can read (in full) here:

What is interesting is that the rosy picture in the 2nd half of the press release on how successful BHeard has been, is sharply contrasted with the careful analysis found in the Gothamist where they note that the data indicates that:

During the first three months of its operation between early June and late August, 1,478 emergency mental health calls were made to 911 operators in the areas serviced by the program. Only 23% of those calls — 342 incidents — were routed to B-HEARD teams. The rest of the mental health crises were initially shared with traditional response teams involving the cops. In both cases, emergency medical technicians or paramedics were dispatched as well.

On top of that, B-HEARD was often under-resourced and didn’t have enough personnel to handle all of the emergencies shared by 911 operators. The program had to redirect 17% of calls back to the police.

To read the full, Gothamist analysis, see:



Residents of some neighborhoods are at much greater risk of experiencing violence – and its many health effects.

Violence is rooted in historical disinvestment and racism.

Evidence shows that violence results from social structures that limit access to basic needs – structures that are fueled by racism, residential segregation, and neighborhood disinvestment. Where these structures persist, people are exposed to violence. For example, low-income neighborhoods of color are known to be hit the hardest.

This map shows the parts of NYC that were redlined 90 years ago as part of racist housing policy that set off decades of disinvestment and intergenerational poverty.

A map of recent shootings lines up with the heavily redlined areas of the Bronx, Harlem, and northern and eastern Brooklyn – showing clearly how today’s violence is closely related to the ways that racist policies are embedded in our society.

Decades of government and societal disinvestment from practices like redlining means limited opportunity and resources, and results in higher rates of poverty in some neighborhoods.

As a result of this disinvestment, we see a clear relationship between poverty and violence. As a neighborhood’s poverty level increases, so do assaults.

Cars Parked in Front of a Hydrant (with NYPD Placards…) Delay FDNY Response

Two cars with NYPD placards parked on an East Harlem fire hydrant as firefighters rushed to extinguish a brownstone fire. This caused a delay in water as the chauffeur had to maneuver the supply line under and around the cars.

This is a major issue recently with cars blocking nearly every hydrant in the city, not only making them hard or impossible to use , but making them incredibly hard to locate.

When seconds count, these cars could be the difference between life and death.

Pop-up Vaccinations Today and Friday

Cayuga will be hosting a pop-up COVID vaccine clinic at our location on Third ave location. Here are the details: 
When:  Thursday 05/06 and Friday 05/07

When:  8:30 am – 5:30 pm

Where:  Cayuga Centers (2183 Third Ave, New York, NY 10035)

Brand:  Moderna
Walk-ins will be accepted on a limited basis. If interested in being vaccinated at our clinic please email Yiseily De Los Santos at [email protected]g or call at (646) 988-6718 to secure an appointment.

More on Redlining

The digitized versions of the 1930’s redlining maps are fairly ubiquitous these days.

What is often not discussed is that in the early 20th century the white men who drew these maps predicted that the waterfront of the Upper East Side (then with breweries, warehouses, factories, and a mostly German and Slavic immigrant community) was going to go downhill. We also need to recall that the presence of the 2nd and 3rd Avenue Els were also a source of class-panic in that the depressed land values under the Els and the sorts of businesses that located there, seemed to portend a dark future.

In the illustration, above, you can see the almost complete expectation (by the redlining teams) that the Financial District and the LES + Chinatown, would invariably become ‘hazardous’ investment locations.

Redlining, however, did more than predict a community’s viability as a site of investment, it also determined community’s futures by starving them of capital and slowly consigning any existing property owners in ‘hazardous’ areas to insolvency or bankruptcy.

FDNY and High Winds

Last week with the high winds, the FDNY was called to investigate loose metal flashing that appeared unsafe on the Church of All Saints.

Nothing major was discovered at this recently sold building.