A night of celebration for the Firehouse North Brooklyn Community Center

February 9, 2017 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ellen Harvey (left) and Diana Silvan (right) speak to the crowd at the Firehouse Loft Party. Eagle photos by Cody Brooks
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Dozens of residents from North Brooklyn and beyond gathered on Tuesday at the loft of artist Ellen Harvey to celebrate the restoration process of the decommissioned historic Firehouse Engine Co. 212 that will soon be a public artists’ space dubbed the Firehouse North Brooklyn Community Center.

The original Firehouse, located at 134 Wythe St. in Williamsburg, was left to the elements for years as graffiti covered its walls and its windows were boarded up, but through the generosity of the city and a group of activists, residents and elected officials, the three-story Firehouse will soon be the only public indoor space for arts, performance and critical dialog in North Brooklyn.

It will also provide a space for educational programming for children and adults and a public community space.

“By repurposing the historic Firehouse into a community and cultural center in this rapidly changing neighborhood, we are ensuring that the area retains its activist spirit and artistic soul, while bringing together the diversity of the older and newer residents,” a post on the Firehouse website read.

The Firehouse will be a permanent home to neighborhood social justice organizations and will act as a community meeting space. One such organization that was present on Tuesday night was Neighbors Allied for Good Growth.

“We are inspired by the legacy of activism established by the founders of the People’s Firehouse that continues with the next generation of neighborhood leaders guiding the Northside Town Hall,” said Toby Moskovits, co-founder of the Firehouse.

“We are honored to be playing a small part in bringing this building back to life and opening up what will be a vibrant center of community activism in the neighborhood.”

After Engine 212 was decommissioned for the first time, the Firehouse organization provided 40 years of service for citizens and worked for tenants’ rights, affordable housing, tenant education and senior housing, among other issues.  

At the gathering, lifelong Williamsburg residents spoke about the role that the Firehouse played over the years and why it’s necessary to restore it.

“The Firehouse has been a beacon of light and hope for this neighborhood for a very long time,” said one resident.

Other residents spoke about how the Firehouse acted as a safe haven for citizens prior to Williamsburg’s recent revitalization, when the streets swarmed with prostitutes, drug dealers and junkies rather than hipsters, and when the abandoned warehouses, which now house lofts and nightclubs, were shanty towns.  

One speaker told the crowd that the Firehouse acted as a community space for activists who stopped the city from tearing down the Williamsburg Bridge.

The Firehouse has captured the excitement of many prominent individuals who have committed significant funding, such as Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Councilmember Steve Levin and state Assemblymember Joe Lentol.

More than $1 million has been raised through donations from the city and other individuals, but an additional $250,000 is needed.

Money was raised for the Firehouse this past summer at TASTE Williamsburg Greenpoint, an annual showcase of North Brooklyn’s elite eateries. More than 1,500 foodies flocked to Williamsburg’s East River State Park to enjoy a taste of Brooklyn’s finest restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries.

Hosts for the evening included Ellen Harvey, Louis Silverman, Zach Weiner, Jonathan Soleimanzadeh, Norm and Elaine Brodsky, Toby Moskovits, Jeremiah Kane/Rubenstein Partners, Leslie Merinoff, Evan Theis, Del Teague, Doug Teague, Jane Pool, Felice Kirby, James Stuart, Mike Andrews and Diana Zelvin.

Barano, an Italian restaurant in Williamsburg known for its wood-fired pizzas, catered the event. Brooklyn Brewery beers were available as well.

For more information and to make donations to the Firehouse, visit thefirehousebk.org.

Northside Town Hall — North Brooklyn's Future Home for Arts, Activism & Community from Northside Town Hall on Vimeo.

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