Volume 16 • Issue 24 |November 11 - 17, 2003

Across from the W.T.C., firefighters return

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Downtown Express photos by Elisabeth Robert

Ladder 10 pulls into the Liberty St. firehouse last Wednesday

The firehouse across from ground zero reopened last week for the first time since the terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001. Returning firefighters from Engine Company 10 and Ladder Company 10 faced a bittersweet homecoming where nothing and yet everything had changed since that Tuesday morning more than two years ago.

During the $3.5 million repair of the firehouse at 124 Liberty St., known as ten-ten or ten house, firefighters stayed with nearby fire units. Engine Company 10 worked most recently out of a firehouse on Duane St., while Ladder Company 10 found a temporary home on South St.

Some men had mixed feelings about their return.

“It’s nice to be back, but we’re across the street from a cemetery for half of my friends,” said James Calvanese, 33, of the ladder company.

Over a pasta lunch in the firehouse kitchen after last Wednesday’s reopening ceremony, Calvanese said he had memories of meals with the five men from both companies who died on 9/11.

The lost members from Engine 10 are Lieutenant Gregg Atlas and Firefighters Jeffrey Olsen and Paul Pansini. The lost members from Ladder 10 are Lieutenant Stephen Harrell and Firefighter Sean Tallon. Also lost was retired Captain James J. Corrigan, who had worked for both companies and took a job with developer Larry Silverstein in the World Trade Center when he retired.

While its foundation stood firm, the firehouse sustained serious physical damage in the trade center collapse and had to be fully renovated—“built by Ikea,” joked Garfield Boston, 31, of Engine 10, referring to the house’s sleek, minimalist look and chrome-like wall finish.

One of the few details preserved from the earlier house are the lockers on the left wall of the garage, said Sal Argano, 33, of the engine company. When guys come in and hang their coats on the hooks, it’s as if they never left, he said.

Out of the 48 current members of the ten-ten house, about 30 joined after 9/11, said Captain Tom Engel of Ladder 10.

“They don’t know how this house was before, so they have nothing to compare it to,” Argano said.

The firehouse serves Battery Park City and used to serve the World Trade Center. There had been talk soon after the terror attack of the firehouse remaining closed. But when asked what persuaded the city to reopen the house, Mayor Mike Bloomberg indicated that it was never an issue.

“The city grows and changes and people move around and you have to try to allocate your resources—there are always limits to what you have, but there’s no question we need protection down here,” Bloomberg said after the ceremony. “Everybody who lives and works in Lower Manhattan is safer because of the men who work in this house.”

“We are very, very happy they’re back,” said Rosalie Joseph, a resident of Gateway Plaza in Battery Park City.

Joseph said that firefighters responded to an incident at Gateway over the weekend in just four minutes, quicker than before their return. Even so, roadwork on Greenwich St. means that firefighters must take a circuitous route around Vesey St. when going to Battery Park City. A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said that the agency expects the roadwork, on Greenwich between Liberty and Rector Sts., to be completed by the end of this year.

Another complication firefighters face is the huge number of tourists who pass by the former World Trade Center site every day. Ten-ten members said they have had to ask idling tourists to move out of the way when they needed to rush out on a call.

Visitors could also prove emotionally draining, some fear, as firefighters are made to relive the horror of the attack with every knock on the door.

“People have been pretty respectful so far,” Boston said. One of the most common questions they’ve been asked is whether the firehouse was there before 9/11, Boston said.

Rosalie Joseph said she has every confidence in the firefighters’ ability to rise to the challenges of their re-entry.

“These guys are good people and they’re professional and they’ll deal with it and be gracious always,” she said.

The Battery Park City Neighbors & Parents’ Association, of which Joseph is co-president, will welcome the firehouse back to the neighborhood with a party on Thursday, Nov. 20 at Unity Restaurant in the Embassy Suites Hotel in Battery Park City from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres will be served and a cash bar will be available.

The party is open to all, and attendees will be asked to make donations for firefighters and families who lost their homes in the recent Southern California fires.



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