Event funds firehouse transformation to community center
by Kathleen Lees
Sep 12, 2012 | 1088 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For Northside Town Hall, Engine 212 is more than just a piece of property—it’s a piece of history. And local residents are hoping to preserve it by turning the firehouse into a community and cultural center.

“When it was initially closed in the 70s, people stayed there for months until it reopened,” said consultant Evan Thies.

In 1975, a group of neighborhood residents protested Mayor Abe Beame decision to close Engine Company 212, citing money constraints. After protesters occupied the firehouse on Wythe Avenue for over 16 months, they won the battle to keep it open, and Engine 212 – dubbed The People's Firehouse - continued to serve as a firehouse for another 25 years.

Out of that struggle was born The People Firehouse, Inc., a local nonprofit that helps area residents with a variety of services.

Then in 2003, the city again proposed closing Engine Company 212. For months that summer, residents camped out in front of the firehouse protesting the decision, but the firehouse was eventually closed for good.

Proceeds from the Taste of Williamsburg Greenpoint, an outdoor celebration in North Brooklyn celebrating the area’s local flavor, will go toward building the Northside Town Hall Community and Cultural Center, which will be housed in the old firehouse.

With a goal of raising $70,000 from the annual event, Thies said the converted location will serve several purposes.

The first floor of the building will be a gallery space for local artists, while the second floor will be a community area for meetings. The third and final floor will be an office area for civic groups, such as the Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, a local non-profit, and The People’s Firehouse, Inc.

Emily Gallagher, co-chair of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, discussed the importance of reviving the building for historical purposes. “Using the space keeps the spirit of the past alive,” she said.

Approximately $1.1 million has been put up for construction funds, but to collect it, the group must raise $500,000 by next June. Including a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds, Thies said “it’s important that we save a part of Brooklyn’s history.”

To find out more about their campaign, visit kickstarter.com and search “Northside Town Hall Community and Cultural Center.”

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