The History of Fire Cuts

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Joe Flood, journalist and author of the new book The Fires: How a Computer Formula, Big Ideas, and the Best of Intentions Burned Down New York City-and Determined the Future of Cities, talks about the recent cuts to the FDNY and provides some historical context on how New York has budgeted for firefighting.


The Fires: How a computer formula, big ideas, and the best of intentions burned down New York City -  

   and determined the future of cities 


Joe Flood

Comments [4]

Polly Bookhout from Clinton, Manhattan

I was the branch librarian of a storefront branch, Melcourt, near the hub in the South Bronx. It may be the only library branch which closed because of a fire.

In 1973 there was a fire in a building around the corner and backing the library. We closed the library and stood out on the street where the whole neighborhood was watching. It was thought that thieves were trying to get the copper pipes from the building. In the fall of 1974 the same building burned again. Few in the neighborhood paid attention. By this time burning buildings were a common event. A month later there was a fire in a closet next to the library’s storefront. The rumor was that three teenagers had been paid to set the fire so the landlord could move his bar from the next block into the library’s space. He hoped to get insurance money. One of the teenagers reputed to have helped set the fire was a library user. Smoke and water damaged closed the library. 1975 brought the fiscal crisis and layoffs. The Melcourt Library never reopened.

Jun. 02 2010 11:06 AM

Great comment from Joe Flood on the issues of computer modeling. The greatest example on the potential disasters of modeling is now the financial crisis. Not only can models be overly simplistic or reductive, they can also be cooked to get pre-determined results.

Jun. 02 2010 10:57 AM
michael from brooklyn

my father was a fire fighter in east flatbush in the 70s and 80s. there was plenty of arson there. the general welfare story was usually the basic cause I would hear.

Jun. 02 2010 10:52 AM

The science of arson, forensic whatever it's called, is very shaky. The most notorious case I know of is that of Cameron Todd Willingham, who Texas Governor Rick Perry happily (yes, happily) executed for the arson killing of his children despite overwhelming evidence that the arson investigation was a hatchet job.

Jun. 02 2010 10:51 AM

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