This month our topic of action will be about getting some neighborhood energy behind the Northside Townhall. NAG & the People’s Firehouse (PFI) were awarded the rights to re-develop the former Engine 212 firehouse at 134 Wythe Avenue into the Northside Town Hall Community & Cultural Center (the Townhall). The main goals of the project include establishing a permanent home for NAG and PFI, providing affordable office and meeting space for other community organizations, creating a street-level exhibition space for local cultural and arts organizations, and commemorating FDNY Company #212 and more of the local community’s history.
The story of the Engine 212 building is an inspiration to all of us who believe that the little guy can make a difference and that community is worth fighting for! During the 1970s, widespread increases in crime, arson and middle-class flight affected much of Brooklyn. Williamsburg was particularly hard hit, losing its Well Baby Clinic, Police Precinct 92 and Fire Engine Company 212. Grass-roots groups organized to restore services cut by the city. With the announced Firehouse closing, this disparate community came together to save it. For 16 months, the people occupied the fire station and pressured the city. A city official called off attempts to remove protesters, who said the fire station was “the People’s Firehouse.” The name stuck and eventually Engine Company 212 was reopened… The City tried to close the firehouse again in 1991 & 2003 with mayor Bloomberg finally winning the battle to close the firehouse in 2004. However, despite the devastating loss and the closure of the beloved firehouse, the community continued to fight, eventually winning the right to develop the firehouse into a community center, defeating deep-pocketed developers who wanted the property for more luxury condos.
The building of the Townhall is a huge project, requiring lots of fundraisers and community support. To that end, we are devoting this month’s NAG Action meeting to this project. We will discuss the important history of the Engine 212 building, how we can spread the word and support this project, and all the volunteer opportunities this year at the Townhall.