NYPD, FDNY go head-to-head in 2nd annual volleyball game

Game at Maspeth High raises funds, honors fallen heroes

By Jessica Meditz


Both the NYPD and FDNY teams showed good sportsmanship throughout.

Cheers filled the gym at Maspeth High School this past Saturday as members of the community turned out to show their support for first responders.

After last year’s smashing success, the NYPD and FDNY men’s volleyball teams held their annual volleyball game for a second year.

The game is to bring awareness and honor the lives of NYPD and FDNY personnel killed in the line of duty, including Police Officer Adeed Fayaz, Detectives Wilbert Mora and Jason Rivera, Firefighters Jesse Gerhard, Timothy Klein, William Moon and EMS Lieutenant Alison Russo-Elling.

It was also a community effort to raise funds for NYPD and FDNY families. Proceeds from the $10 admission ticket and raffle sales went to the Police Benevolent Association and FDNY Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund.

The raffle prizes were all donated by local businesses, including Patrizia’s, Villa Erasmo, Connolly’s Corner, Enchanted Florist & Greenhouse, Oasis Cafe, Cara Mia, Shop & Go Wine & Spirits and Eliot Pizzeria.

Malcolm Brissett-Ortiz, officer at the 77th Precinct and captain of the NYPD volleyball team, organized the event.

“I’m thankful for everyone’s love and support. It’s important we give back to our fallen officers,” Brissett-Ortiz said. “This game is exciting because it’s a lot of fun, and it’s great for morale.”

The afternoon began with a ceremony at 4:30 p.m., featuring the presentation of NYPD and FDNY colors, the National Anthem and a moment of silence for the fallen heroes.

Jerry Matacotta, volleyball coach at Maspeth High School and of the FDNY team, said that the event is intended to be based in community and unity.

“It’s important to get together after a terrible event, recognize the NYPD and FDNY’s work and the heroes that have died this year,” he said. “We wanted to get morale up and help the families.”

The firefighters and police officers on their respective teams are from throughout the city, who have gone on to compete across the country and in the World Police & Fire Games.

Matacotta said they’ll go up to Winnipeg, Canada for this year’s World Police & Fire Games, as well as Battle of the Badges in Massachusetts.

Saturday’s match was played on a best-out-of-five basis, which kept spectators on the edge of their seats.

For the second year in a row, the NYPD reigned victorious – comfortably beating the FDNY 3-1.

They took home a trophy and earned bragging rights once again.

No matter who won or lost, both teams felt a sense of gratitude to see members of the local community so supportive of their work.

“This community supports EMS and the Police and Fire Departments 100 percent. There’s no maybes in this community,” Matacotta said.

“The tradition of the Police and Fire Departments is over 150 years old. It’s not going to end this year, in 50 years, 100 years or 2,000 years from now,” he continued. “People who have served and died for us will always be remembered.”

Six Queens and Brooklyn firehouses receive solar roofing

By Matthew Fischetti


Credit: NYC DCAS

Six FDNY firehouses across Queens and Brooklyn have finished their solar roof installations.

The new panels are solar photovoltaic systems which the city says be used to make sure firehouses can remain operational during emergencies, as well as helping reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

In Queens: Astoria Engine Company 260 in Astoria, Engine Companies 291 and Ladder 140 in Ridgewood, Engine Companies 302 and Ladder 155 in Jamaica received the new upgrade. Brooklyn firehouse that got upgrades include Engine Company 254 and Ladder 153 in Gravesend, Engine Company 236 in East New York, Engine Company 309 and Ladder 159 in Flatlands.

The six firehouses were selected due to recently experienced power outages according to a press release from the Department of Citywide Administrative services announcing the installations on Monday.

Costs for the installation totaled $2.4 million and were funded by the DCAS. The panels will be managed both by the DCAS and the New York Power authority.

The new solar panels have been paired with a battery bank to keep the solar systems charged in case of an emergency. The batteries help operate roll up doors, fuel pumps, some lights, electrical outlets and more.

DCAS indicated that they are planning to expand the solar photovoltaic systems with specific focus on more firehouses, police stations and libraries.

“Firehouses are an integral part of keeping our city safe and remaining operational is critically important to the safety of our city,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement. “We are happy to partner with NYPA to lower our carbon footprint, and bring solar upgrades to more of our firehouses. We know this is a pathway to a more sustainable, safer city.”

Three-alarm fire at Metro Deli shocks community

Over 100 firefighters battled the flames. Photo: FDNY via Facebook.

Residents of Middle Village and travelers on Metropolitan Avenue watched in awe as flames tore through Metro Deli last Wednesday.

The fire began at 67-30 Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village at around 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 30. According to New York City Fire Department (FDNY) officials, the fire was classified as a two-alarm fire originally, but was reclassified as a three-alarm fire at about 8:20 a.m.

Within four minutes, units arrived at the deli and were able to respond quickly, keeping the fire contained.

FDNY officials say over 100 firefighters battled the flames, which left the deli and the now-closed Juniper Tavern directly beside it damaged.

“This morning at approximately 7:30 we received a phone call reporting a fire at 67-30 Metropolitan Avenue. Our units arrived within four minutes and made quick work containing the fire considering how much fire we had on arrival in the rear of the Deli. Units were able to contain the fire to the Deli and the adjoining exposure building,” said FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Frank Leeb from the scene. “This fire went to a 3rd alarm assignment. There are currently no injuries reported. The fire is now under control and the cause is under investigation by our FDNY Fire Marshals.”

As a result of the fire, Metropolitan Avenue from 65th Place to 69th Street was closed off due to emergency response. Additionally, M train service was limited and buses that stopped near the location had to be detoured temporarily.

Various agencies, including the NYPD, DOB, DOHMH, MTA, Con Edison, NYC Emergency Management and SBS were notified and responded to the incident, according to a Facebook post from local Councilman Robert Holden.

“The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) has placed the incident as ‘under control’ as of 9:30 AM, and my office will continue to monitor the situation,” he wrote in the post.

Perlman: Restoring communities, one fire alarm pedestal at a time

By Michael Perlman

One-man dynamo John S. Colgan, a.k.a. the “fire alarm box guy,” may soon be coming to a street corner near you. With originality and creative energy, precision, long-term dedication, and a civic mind without taking a penny from politicians, his aim is to restore and accentuate historic, but long-forgotten Beaux-Arts meets Art Nouveau fire alarm call box pedestals that read NYC all over it. As residents observe Colgan’s unique talent and become an audience, it becomes evident how volunteering is the cultivation of the soul, as preserving a lost art form is nourishment for the soul.

For the past year, one of his many projects is the soon-to-be complete restoration of the neglected 67th Avenue and Queens Boulevard fire alarm pedestal in Forest Hills, which dates to 1929, and even predates the opening of the local IND subway by 7 years. Sometimes late at night, layers of paint were meticulously stripped away, gaps and rust vanished, and primer and layers of traditional red paint were applied. Now its ornate craftsmanship, consisting of vine-like designs and a torch, is continuing to be accentuated in layers of gold.

Today, there are an estimated 15,077 fire alarm boxes, where a majority of the ornate models date to 1913, 1921, and 1931, whereas non-descript models date as far back as 1957. “I don’t really know how many fire alarms I’ve painted in total, but it could be around 100 or 200,” said 46-year-old Colgan, a handyman, and painter from Woodside who began restoring alarms in 2012. He accentuated the details in gold of approximately 30, consisting of six in Bayside Hills, one to date in Forest Hills, at least five in Long Island City, two in Sunnyside, five in Woodside in various stages of repainting and repair, five in Astoria, and others at random throughout Queens.

Besides the 67th Avenue alarm, he has his eyes set on painting nine others before summer’s end, which include two in Douglaston, two in Bayside, two in Bayside Hills, one in Whitestone, and two in Woodside. In 2021, this columnist led Colgan on a survey of Forest Hills and Rego Park fire alarms, and through Facebook, residents also suggested alarms to restore.

Fire Alarm box pedestal restored and enhanced by John Colgan

Above all, Colgan is a man of gratitude. He said, “My mother and I originated this project, so she is my inspiration. She taught me to ‘fight till the end and never give up,’ so I’m on a mission to save as many FDNY fire alarms as possible. Every alarm painted is one saved. My mother instilled a sense of community within me.”

At that time, he was unemployed and his mother suggested that he “paint the neighborhood” and “give back by leading by example.” He reminisced, “I began by covering the graffiti on lampposts, and then hydrants and sign poles, followed by mailboxes. Then I ran out of things to paint. One day while sitting on the front steps of my mother’s house, I noticed the ugly condition of the fire alarm on the corner of 32 Avenue and 54th Street, so I went to Gleason’s on 69th and got a gallon of Maxtech Gloss Red. After I painted it red, I thought the lace work might look nice with some gold on it, and then Bam! I stepped back, looked at it, and the rest is history.”

Colgan loves restoring fire alarms for free, as his gift to the community. He explained the intricate nature of the restoration process. “You have to be dedicated and tough. I’m out in all sorts of weather, but mostly when it’s hot. In the winter, I use an old wood chisel to chip off the paint, since it saves time, and the acid paint remover does not work when it’s too cold or wet. The painting is always the restoration’s easy component. It’s very relaxing, and I go into a trance, where nothing else matters other than the little square I’m working on.”

As significant and picturesque as the alarms are, Colgan considers the 67th Avenue alarm the most challenging and poorly manufactured model that he worked on in ten years. He explained, “This 1929 alarm does not appear on the official fire alarm blueprints. Through my own observations, I surmise that the FDNY tried to save money by taking the alarms away from the craftsmen and giving them to an assembly line with regular workers. Not only are these alarms of poor craftsmanship, but the metal is a low grade. I had to fix the crumbling cast iron. The lace work is also missing pieces, so technically it’s incomplete.”

It is also the “busiest alarm” that Colgan ever restored. He explained, “Most of the time I’m in front of someone’s house on a lonely Queens street, but on 67th Ave, I met and spoke to at least 1,000 people since I started last September. I’ve had great conversations with a ton of elderly people.” At least one resident usually sits on the corner, as they watch the paint dry, and others show up routinely to witness his progress and offer moral support.

Colgan is interested in establishing a Facebook group poll on color schemes, since gold accents are sometimes offset by hints of black for contrast, or the placement of colors varies. He said, “The plan is for the community to get involved in the final stages of paint. After all, you have to look at it, but I will be moving on to the next alarm.”

John Colgan restores the 67th Ave fire alarm
(Photo by Michael Perlman)

Additionally, there are five other alarms that Colgan is considering restoring in Forest Hills and Rego Park. “They are in bad shape, so I don’t think I will get to them this season,” he said.

Much is still being discovered about the history of fire alarm pedestals. Colgan explained, “The first fire alarms were acquired and improved by John Gamewell from the 1850s to the 1880s. The original alarm was based on the Morse Telegraph system. After the Civil War, the US government stole all of the patents from southern inventors and sold them for nothing on the Capitol Steps. Then one of Gamewell’s employees brought his fire alarm patents and started the company back up in Hackensack. He sold the patents back to John Gamewell for $1. From there, the company erected a huge factory (still standing) in Newton, Ma. At one point, Gamewell Co. had a 95 percent share of the fire alarm market. The alarms changed very little since the 1900s. The real difference in my opinion is that the signal is a little more efficient, but the overall design is the same. Gamewell was very good at perfection.”

Preserving the remaining historic fire alarms on-site is essential since unfortunately, some received mundane rectangular replacements. Colgan said, “It took years for me to figure out how to get the paint to stick to the alarm for seven years, and I’m just a painter. I cannot imagine the level of skill that was required to produce just one alarm.” Today, alarms are being repurposed. “They act as a landmark for the FDNY technicians looking for an FDNY manhole,” he continued.

Colgan is a humanitarian on many levels. “My only goal is to honor my mother by doing nice things for people and expecting nothing in return. The only person responsible for your neighborhood is you. Less government and more volunteer work is the solution. If you don’t expect anything in return, then you will get tons of love from fellow New Yorkers,” he said.

“John is truly a magician with the magic that he performs to restore these works of art and history,” Ivy Chait-Skow said. “Forest Hills has such wonderful architecture and historical features, and we need to preserve what we can.”

CVS supervisor Jason Biddle is proud to see a familiar site undergoing restoration. “John Colgan took hours upon hours of his time to bring it back to its original form. It looks very authentic, and I feel that he deserves a lot of credit.”

Early on, it caught David Edelman’s eye. He explained, “Witnessing John Colgan devote extreme time and effort to painstakingly restore a fire alarm in the heat, rain, and darkness evokes a sense of community pride and ownership over our neighborhood that is so desperately needed, especially now, to counteract the forces of neglect that is too often the norm. When an old firebox is restored to majestic condition, it draws attention, perhaps enough that it invokes a desire to learn more and do more to continue to improve our neighborhood and city. I wish every neighborhood could have a restored firebox.”

Restoration expert John Colgan with surveyor Michael Perlman during the restoration of the 67th Ave alarm restoration

“The restored fire alarm is a sign of hope and resilience for the whole community after 2 years of Covid and a criminal spike,” said Vania Martini. “It gives a sense of reassurance that great humanity is out there in the form of John. Everyone can apply their talent towards community service, so I hope more people will get inspired.”

For Kevin Sanichara, seeing this rare act of restoration brought immense joy. He explained, “John did an amazing job! It’s a step in the right direction of bringing back order and cleanliness. We cannot sit around and wait for others to create the positive change we seek. Those fire boxes from the 1920s have a wonderful architectural design, and I want to see more of that and other local restorations whenever possible.”

“I tip my hat to John Colgan,” Elana Kirschbaum said. “Volunteering and historic preservation are huge since, without either, we won’t have anything left of our neighborhood that we know and enjoy.”

Remember FDNY

Dear Editor,
We must not forget the 343 firefighters who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, trying to save lives. We must also remember those firefighters who survived, but died years later from various diseases, as well as those who are now ill from their rescue efforts at Ground Zero.
Please keep in your prayers these brave firefighters who go into danger with dedication, courage and a desire to save lives.
Frederick R. Bedell Jr.

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