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Landmark Old Brooklyn Fire HQ Still Has Birdcage Elevator

Birdcage elevator at Old Brooklyn Fire Headquarters. All photographs by Evan Bindelglass.

The Old Brooklyn Fire Headquarters at 365 Jay Street is now a residential building and it was open to the public on Saturday as part of Open House New York weekend. The building was constructed back in 1892 and ceased firefighting operations in the 1970s. In the 1980s, it was converted to residential use with 18 units. Seven of the original tenants still live there in affordable units with a cap of 155 percent of the area median income (AMI).

[Old Brooklyn Fire Headquarters as seen from across the street.]

According to Ed Martinez, who heads the tenants association, the conversion to residential was the result of a lawsuit filed by his mother Virginia. Martinez told Curbed NY that Bruce Ratner offered her $11,000 to move out so that MetroTech Center could be built. She sued and was guaranteed housing "on site." That ended up being the firehouse. The front of the building belies its true size as the structure extends back a fair distance, enough for at least some units to have four bedrooms.

The structure was designated a landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1966. In 2013 and 2014, MDG Design + Construction worked with the Pratt Area Community Council to conduct major repair and restoration work on the building, including the collapsed tower roof. The building still contains the original birdcage elevator (though it's no longer functioning), entry tile, and stairs. Before the days when you'd call 911 to report a fire, firefighters would stand watch in the tower and look for fire. Back in the day, the tower had an extensive view. Today, the tower is enclosed by netting, but that isn't for safety reasons. It's to keep pigeons out.

· 365 Jay Street [MDG]
· Jay Street Firehouse [OHNY]
· Old Brooklyn Fireheadquarters designation report [Official]
· All Open House New York coverage [Curbed]