By Lauren Perez
|From Carritue, used in “Time Brings Down What Fire Could Not,” New York Times. August 31, 2005|
I lived at 1216 Halsey Street, a three-story attached frame building between Wilson and Knickerbocker Avenues. Bushwick was a great place to grow up, at least in the early years. It was filled with tree lined streets and “Mom & Pop” stores.I lived right across the street from Irving Square Park–we called it Halsey Park, although the real Halsey Park was located on the other side of Broadway, between Saratoga and Howard Avenues. It was as peaceful area with summer days filled with stickball and softball games. Unfortunately, things started to change around the late 50s to early 60s. I (had a) 1955 Schwin Delux Hornet Bicycle, which I saved up to buy working in the local drugstore for 25 cents an hour. I had the bike a year when I got careless, forgetting to lock it up when returning from a prescription delivery. It was stolen with me in pursuit down Halsey Street, until tiring out at Evergreen Avenue. Like the rest of the city, Bushwick was not immune to the trouble of the times. It became an area of gangs, crime, and unrest. In 1956, we finally moved to Glendale, Queens. Five years later, I was back in Bushwick with the FDNY. I looked for (my old) bike all during my 41 career with the Fire Department, 32 of which were spent in Ladder 112.–R. Carritue
Carritue eventually became captain of Ladder 112 on Knickerbocker Avenue; today he is remembered as a local hero. In honor of their dedication to protect Bushwick, the city built Engine 227 and Ladder 112 new facilities. But as the New York Times wrote, “The city has made landmarks of 17 firehouses, four of them in Brooklyn. Others in historic districts were spared the wrecking ball, too, but the Ant Farm was nobody’s preservation project…the men will move into a building they do not much care for and they will get used to it and do their jobs.” Often referred to as the “Ant Farm” and the “house of pain,” Ladder 112 was one of New York’s busiest fire units during the “firestorm years” of constant arson and looting. From 1965 to 1980, there were more than one million fires in the city; Bushwick was hit the hardest. Despite the fires, many Bushwick firemen lost their jobs in the 1975 Budget Crisis. The remaining firemen worked day and night to save the city. The cause of the fires changed from accidental to arson and entire block in Bushwick were lost. A third of Bushwick’s population relocated. As locals say, the city has literally “risen up from flames,” and is still in a state of recovery.
Video from Ron Carritue/ Produced by Eric Forte/ Edited by Lauren Perez
“Ron Carritue and the Bushwick “Fire War”,” City of Memory http://www.cityofmemory.org/map/indexp.php/story/2230
Letter from Ron Carritue to Lauren Perez, April 1, 2011
“Time Brings Down What Fire Could Not,” New York Times, August 31, 2005