Both dating to the early 20th century, firehouse and police precinct station designated in part for their role in Far Rockaway’s development as a year-round residential community. At its meeting on May 29, 2018, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate two buildings in in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens as individual City landmarks. The buidlings are the 53rd Police Precinct Police Station, at 16-12 Mott Avenue, and the Firehouse, Engine Companies 264 & 328, Ladder Company 134 at 16-14 Central Avenue.
The Precinct Station dates to 1928, and was built in a Renaissance Revival/Colonial Revival to designs by Thomas E. O’Brien, while the Renaissance Revival firehouse was completed in 1912 and designed by the firm of Hoppin & Koen. Hoppin and Koen created a modular design for firehouses that could be replicated in widths on one, two or three bays, depending on the needs of the Fire Department and the community.
Far Rockaway was a seasonal resort area until the construction of a railway bridge across Jamaica Bay in 1888 linking it to the rest of Queens, and grew rapidly following the 1898 consolidation of the five boroughs. The Precinct Station and Firehouse represent Far Rockaway’s establishment as a thriving community within New York. Both buildings continue to serve in their original capacities, with the police station now the 53rd Precinct.
Landmarks identified the two buildings as potential landmarks while studying the neighborhood as part of the Downtown Far Rockaway revitalization plan which will include a rezoning of the area. The buildings were added to Landmark’s designation calendar at its March 13, 2018, meeting.
Landmarks held a hearing on the proposed designations on April 24, 2018. A representative of Council Member Donovan Richards expressed enthusiasm towards the rezoning, which would help revitalize the community. He endorsed the two designations, saying “we remember the past as we look to the future.”
The Historic District Council’s Barbara Zay said both buildings merited designation, but questioned Landmarks’ decision to bring these items forward, but not other related structures in other parts of the City. As the Commission’s Research Department had noted, the Firehouse, was an example of a modular design replicated in other areas, including an extant firehouse in East Harlem, which was not identified as noteworthy in Landmark’s survey of the area in advance of the East Harlem Rezoning. Zay said the “lovely, intact” Police Station also had a twin in East Harlem, at 250 West 135th Street. Zay requested that Landmarks institute a “survey-and-landmark initiative” that would comprehensively identify significant civic structures throughout the five boroughs.
Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan stated that the FDNY had communicated their support for the designation of the Firehouse to Landmarks.
Executive Director Sarah Carroll responded to HDC’s testimony, stating that the buildings were considered within the specific context of Far Rockaway, where they “really do stand out.” Carroll said architecture and significance were looked at with similar standards, but the agency also took into account the “characteristics of a particular community.”
When Landmarks reconvened in May, Commissioner Diana Chapin, who hails from Queens, said the buildings were “very important to the character and history of Far Rockaway.” Srinivasan stated that she was “very pleased” to see the items come to the designation stage of the landmarking process. She said the Commission had been working in recent years to represent “all New Yorkers’ in its designations, and that civic buildings play important roles in neighborhoods. Landmarks voted unanimously to designate both properties.
LPC: 53rd Precinct Police Station, 16-12 Mott Avenue, Queens (LP-2610); Firehouse, Engine Companies 264 & 328, Hook and Ladder 134, 16-15 Central Avenue (May 29, 2018).
By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law.)