The North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue squad unveiled on Tuesday the second new firehouse that it has created since forming in 1999. The NHRFR was formed by merging North Hudson towns’ fire departments – North Bergen, Union City, West New York, Weehawken, and Guttenberg.
NHRFR Chairperson and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said at the unveiling of the new firehouse on Tuesday that the Regional bought the former AAMCO transmission shop at 4300 Kennedy Blvd. for $1.2 million two years ago, then spent $1.5 million renovating the two-story building. Engine Company 5, currently housed on 43rd Street a block away, will move into the new location in a week.
“This is like a blessing, to move into a state-of-the-art facility.” – Andrew Scott
Union City Mayor Brian Stack said that the new house, located across the street from North Bergen, will not only serve Union City, but is centrally located off of Kennedy Boulevard, making it a benefit to the entire region.
“[Engine 5’s former location] was antiquated,” said Stack. “It was in the middle of a block really not conducive for a fire house…this can actually get around the city faster because you can always get onto Kennedy Boulevard here.”
The Regional also created a new headquarters/firehouse two years ago in West New York to serve the waterfront area.
New dispatch, emergency center
The Regional’s dispatch center, currently located on 50th Street and Broadway in cramped quarters, will move into the second floor of the new building. Communication Director Andrew Scott’s office will also be located upstairs.
“This firehouse is crucial,” said West New York Mayor Sal Vega. “To think that after eight years after 9/11, we are finally getting a state-of-the-art communications center that is going to serve the region, is important as anything else.”
Mayor Nicholas Sacco said that there once was a Regional center of operations where the town’s municipal chambers are now, but that it was years ago.
Fire Chief Brion McEldowney said that the Regional had outgrown their communications center, which was formed 30 years ago and was the first regional dispatch in the state.
“Our communication center is out of date,” said Scott. “It’s not conducive to computer equipment. It is very dusty in [the trailer]. This is like a blessing, to move into a state-of-the-art facility, air-conditioned to keep the computers cooled, radio equipment, access to anything.”
Part of the communications operation will include the new Emergency and Interoperability Command Center, which the department obtained $1.2 million in federal funding to create. It will link all first responders in Hudson County in the case of an emergency.
NHRFR Co-Director Jeffery Welz said that the emergency center will provide a back-up system for North Hudson’s communication center. In the case of a disaster in which another department’s communications go down, they could move into the new center within one day.
The center also recently received $500,000 through a federal grant. Officials believe construction will take place in around six months.
Union: not enough firefighters
North Hudson Firefighters Association President Dominick Marino said after the event that it was “great” that the Regional had a new firehouse, but that with three of them closing on a rotating basis every day, there aren’t enough men the staff them properly now.
Marino said that approximately 51 members of the Regional are working per day. He said this is down from 76 men in 1999 when the Regional first formed. Marino said that current staffing levels are just enough to respond to one fire in North Hudson at a time.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com. New traffic light, concrete barriers near firehouse
Before Engine 5 takes up residency at their new home in Union City, a delayed traffic light will be installed on 43rd Street, which will stop vehicles passing the house, allowing engines to efficiently access Kennedy Boulevard.
The department has also received a tentative approval from the Hudson County to install a concrete barrier on the Kennedy Boulevard side of the building to reinforce it. They haven’t yet agreed on what kind will be installed yet. Kennedy Boulevard is a county-owned road..