“Believe me I’m as anxious to get the place open,” said Public Safety Director Jason O’Donnell, when contacted in mid-December about reports concerning a possible work stoppage. “The contractor has not walked off the job. But we’ve had some problems with the use of union labor. But it wasn’t any one thing that has delayed this.”
As late as September, local officials were hopeful that they could see the facility open. But a number of small problems, O’Donnell said, have caused delays. These included a 40-day wait for PSE&G to complete installing the utilities at the site. O’Donnell said some work had to wait until that was finished.
This is not the first delay that has plagued the new firehouse. The project had some bidding problems before it broke ground in August 2012.
Funded by a $3.56 million federal grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Fire Station Construction Grants program in 2009, the firehouse project is one of $380 million in grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to pay for fire-station construction, as well as port and transit security initiatives nationwide.
The new firehouse is replacing the tent that the department currently uses to house fire vehicles servicing the Route 440 area.
This comes at an opportune time since the city has received interest from more than 20 developers for 55 acres of city-owned land on the nearby former Military Ocean Terminal, part of rejuvenated interest in an area that had been previously envisioned for significant new residential units.
The new firehouse is expected to house two fire companies, covering the east side of Bayonne as well as provide coverage in other parts of the city when necessary.
When the Peninsula was still in operation as a military base, the U.S. Army maintained its own fire department and built a firehouse there. When the federal government closed the base in 1999, Bayonne took over the fire service. But the sale of the land forced the fire department to relocate. This coincided with a report by Matrix Consultants in December 2007 that recommended combining several operating departments at one location.
The new firehouse replaces two houses that the department formerly used, one built in 1888 and the other in 1939.
The work on the new one continued even after the city sold a large portion of MOTBY to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Many assumed that the Port Authority would use the property for container port operations, sparking concern among local real- estate brokers over the lost opportunity to replenish Bayonne stock of aging homes with new development. Earlier this year, the Port Authority surprised local officials when it agreed to let Royal Caribbean construct a permanent cruise-port terminal to replace the temporary facilities there.
This, coupled with the city’s settling of a longstanding legal dispute over the fate of a portion of land still owned by the city, put more focus on upgrading the area. Reports suggest that the city is negotiating for the construction of a hotel and other amenities, making the new firehouse even more essential.
Since the 34th Street light rail station is only seven blocks from another fire station, it was moved to provide more rapid response and wider coverage from the new location, which has immediate access to 34th Street, as well as to Route 440 and roads leading into the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor.
The 5,000-square-foot tent was installed at the edge of the Peninsula to temporarily house the units until a new state-of-the-art facility could be constructed. The city’s master plan calls for a new permanent structure to house the fire department located in the Harbor Station South area.
Once constructed, the new firehouse will consist of 15,000 square feet, accommodating eight fire trucks. It will also house a decontamination shower, a training room to assist in meeting the increasing educational requirements post 9/11, and offer all basic requirements of a twenty-four-hour fire station.
Originally scheduled to be completed by the end of winter 2013, the new home for the firefighters of Rescue 1 and Squad 5 will replace a tent that’s been their temporary quarters for four years.
Earlier this year, Fire Chief Greg Rogers said the new station will provide prompt cover to Bayonne’s east side, which includes areas on the east side of Broadway, Avenues E and F, the Route 440 Corridor. and MOBTY.
The 160-foot-wide station, the largest station in the department, will also house a 4,000- gallon foam-delivery vehicle to help deal with petrochemical fires. It is expected to be delivered in mid-2014.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.