Volume 76, Number 17 | September 13 - 19, 2006

Attorney Arthur Schwartz, right, speaking with a member of the Village’s Fire Patrol station at Aug. 30 protest.

Demand attorney general rescue Village Fire Patrol

By David Spett

In the midst of his primary campaign race for State Committee, Arthur Schwartz, held a press conference in front of the Village Fire Patrol on Aug. 30 to say that that the proposed closure of the patrol is illegal and that he may sue to block the shutdown.

Located on W. Third St. between Thompson and Sullivan Sts., the Fire Patrol is the oldest fire brigade in the nation. It is independent of the Fire Department and is funded by insurance companies. Its parent company, the nonprofit New York Board of Fire Underwriters plans to shut down the Fire Patrol, including its two other locations in Chelsea and Brooklyn, on Oct. 15.

“I have concerns that the building on Third St. is going to get turned into another N.Y.U. building, and I think it’s an issue that could benefit from attention from people in the political arena,” said Schwartz, who is Community Board 2’s Parks Committee chairperson.

Explaining why the Fire Patrol shutdown is illegal, he said, “The Board of Fire Underwriters exists by virtue of a charter that was issued by the state Legislature, and it says ‘they shall operate the Fire Patrol,’ it didn’t say ‘they may.’ ”

Schwartz sent a letter to state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer demanding that he sue the B.F.U. to block it from allegedly violating its charter.

“Charters of not-for-profit corporations can be enforced by the A.G.,” Schwartz said. “And if there’s a threat to public safety, I believe that the public can try to enforce” the charters as well, he added.

“I would argue that members of the public who benefit [from the Fire Patrol] are third-party beneficiaries,” and thus also have standing to sue, Schwartz said.

If Spitzer does not sue the B.F.U. by the third week of September, Schwartz said he would file suit on behalf of about 50 area businesses and residents who have retained Schwartz to represent them in an effort to keep the Fire Patrol open.

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