Doug Teague, treasurer of the People’s Firehouse, explained before the awards were given out that they had chosen Restler, a former district leader, because of his accessibility and willingness to go the extra mile for the community.
“Anytime you need help with anything, he’s always there; it’s just amazing,” Teague said. “So many times, you have to call and call and call to get any local elected officials to be around, to come support, but Lincoln is just always there.”
His wife Del Teague added that the same was true of the mayor-elect.
“De Blasio was very available to us when we were trying to fight the closing of firehouses,” he said. “We thought, you know, this might be the last time we can really give him an award for being our borough, our community, because now he’s going to be mayor for everybody.”
The party was held at 113 Berry Street, the current home of the People’s Firehouse, where they will reside until the completion of renovations to the old EC212 firehouse just up the block.
The People’s Firehouse was formed when Adam Veneski, a grocer in the Williamsburg community, became fed up with fire station closures in communities plagued with arson.
Along with the other founding members of the People’s Firehouse, Veneski was an integral part of the 1975 protests that kept Engine Company 212 open by occupying the building and holding the fire truck inside hostage for several months.
Through the efforts of the People’s Firehouse and other community organizations, Engine Company 212 remained open until 2003. Now the group is a part of the process of turning the old firehouse into a community center called Northside Town Hall.
Restler, who accepted both his own award and de Blasio’s on his behalf, said that the reason he works so hard for the people in his community is that he understands working within government regulations isn’t easy.
“People who run for political office want to serve the community, and on any neighborhood issue that people are facing, I’d like to try to help,” said Restler. “It’s complicated in government, and with all the changes going on in this neighborhood, a lot of times, people don’t even know their neighbors anymore, and it’s helpful to have elected officials and community leaders who can help bridge gaps.”
After the awards were given, the Teague family picked up their instruments – with Del on the bass, Doug on his 1960 Telecaster, and their daughter Samantha on lead vocals – and played a folksy set of tunes.
To close the evening, donated gifts were given to all children in attendance.