12 December, 1988
Princeton Borough firehouse move worries merchants
By Kate Sheehy
PRINCETON BOROUGH Merchants concerned about plans to shut down a firehouse In the central business district have launched a protest against the move.
Mitch Forest, president of Borough Merchants for Princeton, said the decision could lead to potentially dangerous increases in response times here, not to mention a major historic loss for the community.
“We basically had a fire here a couple months ago on 20 Nassau (Street). The fire department got here fast enough, but if they hadn’t, it would have damaged the whole building.” Forest said. “If they had gotten here five minutes later, I don’t know what would have happened.” ‘
But Chief Richard McKee denied that plans to move Engine Co. No. 3 from Chambers Street to Witherspoon Street would endanger business.. “If anything, it has to be an improvement,” McKee said.
The fire chief said the move was necessary because of problems with the Chambers Street firehouse’s size and location.
He said the 50-year-old building can barely handle two pumpers and has no room for additional growth.
Increasing problems maneuvering around nearby Palmer Square’s traffic gridlock have also contributed to concerns at the station, he said. “It’s a beautiful building. There’s a lot of history. But it’s served its purpose,” McKee said. ‘The time has come.”
McKee mid the merchants have not given biro any written complaints about the move.
THE LOCAL business group recently presented borough officials with a petition, bearing 35 signatures, requesting the relocation be reconsidered because the station “has been a part of Princeton and its history for many year.”
“Isn’t it nice to have a cop on the corner or a firehouse on the corner?” Forest asked. “That’s a historic part of the community were trying to preserve here. What are we going to have on that corner? Something funky?”
Borough officials have only said sale of the old structure is likely to help defray costs of the new build. ing.
Although the new facility will be located in the township, next to the Johnson Park School, borough officials are involved because they oversee the local department.
Commenting on the petition Thursday night, Councilman Mark Freda said he thought most merchants who signed the petition did so because they thought their insurance rates would rise.
“Some were under the impression if the firehouse moves, their rates would go up for the business. That’ll have no effect whatsoever,” said Freda, also chief of the local Hook and Ladder Co.
Joan Batman, a supervisor with insurance carrier ISO Commercial Risk Services Inc. of Mount Laurel, confirmed Freda’s prediction. “As long as a property is within five miles of the fire station and LODO feet of a fire hydrant, there isn’t any difference than if it were a block from the firehouse,” Batman said.
But those merchants interviewed said safety and the building’s history. ic value were the main reasons they signed the petition. “It seems to me they should have a company as close to the city as possible,” Annex Restaurant owner Ercole Carnevale said. “Other than that, I don’t see any other reason why it needs to be here.”