Firefighters are warning that lives could be at risk in New York's $25 billion mega-development
- New York City firefighters are worried that they don't have enough capacity to serve Hudson Yards, a $25 billion, 18 million-square-foot mega-development that opens on Friday.
- By the time the development is completed in 2024, it could have more than 125,000 daily residents, visitors, and office workers.
- Unless the city builds a new fire station in the neighborhood, these lives could be at stake, the president of New York's firefighters union told Business Insider.
New York's largest private real estate development, the 18 million-square-foot Hudson Yards, can expect a flood of locals, tourists, and office workers at its grand opening on March 15.
For the first time, members of the public will climb aboard Vessel, a 150-foot-tall honeycomb-shaped art installation in the public square, dine at the complex's luxury restaurants like Momofuku and D&D London, and browse luxury retail stores.
As the excitement mounts, the city's firefighters have issued a sobering warning: Firefighters don't enough capacity to serve the development, and as a result, residents' lives could be put in danger.
In 2018, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association - the union representing New York City firefighters - sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio in which he expressed concerns about increased traffic and safety emergencies near Hudson Yards.
In his letter, Gerard Fitzgerald claimed that the lack of a fire station endangered the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. His department, he wrote, was already "stretched thin" trying to serve the surrounding area near the Eastern and Western Rail Yards, which includes neighborhoods like Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen.
De Blasio never responded to the letter, but Fitzgerald's request received support from his own fire department.
If the city is unwilling to build a new station, he said, it should at least equip stations near Hudson Yards with an with additional firefighter for each engine.
"If they started today, it would probably take the better part of two years to get the firehouse built up and running," he told Business Insider.
By the time all of Hudson Yards is completed in 2024, it will have more than 125,000 daily residents, visitors, and office workers. This increased pedestrian activity could amplify fire department requests.
"More people, more emergencies," said Fitzgerald. "If we're out the door more often, that means there's less availability [to answer calls]."
More people also means more congestion in major transit corridors like the Holland Tunnel to the south, Lincoln Tunnel to the north, and Penn Station to the east. Of particular concern, he said, was service to 15 Hudson Yards, an 88-story residential tower with nearly 400 housing units.
"If there's a fire up there, you're on the water. Wind is a concern," he said. "We need the extra firefighters ... to save or protect lives."
There's an irony to these warnings, given that Hudson Yards developers have gone to great lengths to protect the site from terrorist attacks, including active shooters and truck bombs.
But one of the site's developers, Related Companies, said the decision to install a fire station rests with the city and the New York fire department.
"We don't control the siting of firehouses, but have been working closely with [New York City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel] Nigro and his team and appreciate their intense involvement in analyzing what additional resources and procedures may be needed," the company told Business Insider.
At this point, Fitzgerald said, a new firehouse may only arise if lives are lost.
"That's going to be the way that the city is going to pay attention," he said, "if the fire deaths go up."