From: The Bay Improvement Group
30 Dooley St
Brooklyn NY 11235
a not-for-profit community coalition
tel: 718-646-9206 fax 212-888-7306
Contact: Steve Barrison


Firemen's Corner Street Renaming
Dedication Set For Monday Aug. 3, 1998
Ocean Ave. & Ave. Y

                As a broad coalition of residents, businesses, community groups and leaders
in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn, the Bay Improvement Group (BIG) is
sponsoring a 20th anniversary street renaming dedication to the 6 fireman who
lost their lives at the Waldbaum's fire of Aug. 2, 1978. This was the largest
loss of firemen in a single fire in Brooklyn.
                Waldbaum's was on the corner of Ave. Y and Ocean Ave. (presently Staples)
and many of our members and residents knew those brave men who valiantly gave
their lives for our safety. As a permanent reminder of this act of heroism, we
proposed to the city of New York that this corner be permanently named
Firemen's Corner. With the support of the community board and our local
representatives this tribute will happen.
                This dedication is set for Monday, Aug. 3, 1998, NOON at the site. We
cordially invite the community to join with surviving family members of the
fallen firefighters, our city and state representatives, and local businesses
and residents for this renaming dedication ceremony.

Subject: Report on Waldbaum Fire 20 year memorial Date: Wed, 12 Aug 1998 11:06:55 -0700 From: (JOHN P CUNNINGHAM) To: Six firefighters died at the fire when the roof collapsed, 34 were injured. ( This information is from a yellowed with age, Daily News, dated Aug. 3rd, 1978, a day after the trgic fire. given to me a few days ago by Joe Jankowski, who nearly lost his life at the fire.) It was the worst single disastrous fire for the Fire Department since the Madison Sq. fire of Oct. 17-18, 1966, when 12 firefighters were killed. The heroes who died are FF George Rice, 38, Ladder 153, FFJames McManus, 48. Cov. Lt. James Cutillo, 39, 33rd Batt., FF Harold Hastings, 40, 43rd Batt., FF Charles Bouton,38, L. 156 and William O'Connor,29 of L. 156. Critically injured were FF's Richard Smicuska and George Costanza. The fire started at 8:40 am in Waldbaums supermarket, Ave. Y and Ocean AVe., Sheepshead Bay. Nearly 23 electricians, plumbers etc were renovating the building when the fire started in the mezzenane area. , All hands at 8:49 2nd at 9:02. Shortly after 9:20 with 20 firefighters on the roof a crackling sound was heard and the center portion of the roof fell into the smoke and flames. Some of the firefighters were seen running toward the edge of the roof, some made it, others nearby felli nto the hole. At 9:18 3rd alarm sent in. Later it went to a 5th alarm. Laborers and firefighters managed to pull out some who were near walls, some crawled out. Several holes were made into the wall to pull out injured survivors and victims. Some wives were at the scene when their husbands fell. It was a tragic sad day, still remembered by many. Several firefighters I know, who were at the scene say " they shivver whenever they pass the site and usually avoid it by using another street. Monday, August 3rd, was a very hot day. Several hundred active and retired firefighters, old friends, widows, children and grandchildren, and parishioners of St Brendans R.C. Church, Ave. O and E. 12th St, filled the church for the annual 10:30 mass. Bishop Ignatious Catanello was the celebrant. He spoke of the brave fiefighters and stated " this is a painful Anniversary that must be celebrated." This memorial mass has been held for the last 20 years. After the mass, many attended the Memorial service on the corner of Ave. Y and Ocean Ave. conducted by Steve Barrister, President and Marie Marone, Vice Pres. of the Bay Improvement Group, who erected a bronze plaque three years on the Old Waldbaum building, now the site of a Staples store. Standing on Ocean Avenue on the hottest part of the day, 12 Noon, were over a hundred Sheepshead Bayites, showing their love and respect for firefighters. A basket of fresh flowers and several bouquets were placed in front and on the plaque. Many firefighters in Uniform and retirees who knew and worked with the fallen heroes attended. Eng. Co. 246's pumper was parked in front of the building on Ocean Ave. surrounded by active and retirees talking to the firefighters, renewing old ties. While waiting for the widows and children to come after the mass, quest speakers were Joe Hynes, former Fire commission and Kings District Attorner, who is running in the Democratic Primary for Governor. Councilman Anthony Weiner, who introduced a resolution in the City council to name the corner "Fireman"s corner, State Senator Carl Kruger, Assemblyman Dan Feldman, Ms. Dobson from Brooklyn Boro Pres. Howard Goldens staff, and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein. Several of the widows and their children and grandchildren came after the mass and said a few words to the audience. Steve Barrison introduced them and spoke about the community coming out in support of those firefighters who deserve proper honor and tribute. And they did come out, many more came, young and old, who stood in the hot sun, Catherine Bouton, Widow of the late Charles Bouton, L. 156, said " I was numb, I didn't think I could raise our six children on my own, the youngest was only two years old." Today she is the Grandmother of seven. Louise O'Connor, widow of William O'Connor said" It is amazing that this group of people who have always been with us remain every year with us. Now we have Grandchildren as old as our children were twenty years ago when our husbands died." Among the retired Firefighters from the old Sheepshead Bay firehouse who showed up to honor their former brothers were Guy LaCognata, Harry Kooperstein, Joe Jankowsky, Bernie Magrino, Al Fecci, Rocco Summo, Ret. D. C. John McSheffrey, John Quintalino, William Viole, Vinnie McDonough and Ray Leibowits, ret. Dispatcher. Captain Ed Ellison, L. 169 and Lt. Rocky Jones E. 309, were present. Many firefighters in uniform stayed until the ceremony was over and went to the collation, which was in the K of C on Nostrand Ave, and Quentin Rd. I introduced myself to Carol Rice, George Rice's widow and spoke to her about her husband George whom I knew. I also knew her father-in-law, Firefighter James Rice and his father, a Lt. in the E. 9th St. Firehouse. I lived across the street from them in my teens. Her father-in-law was my inspiration to become a firefighter. Joe Jankowski, Ret. E. 246, whom I worked with when I was a member of L. 169, on that fateful day was on the roof and as he felt the roof beneath him have a spongy feel, he went toward the ledge, hanging on until rescued, a few seconds before the roof caved in taking those beside him to their death. He thanks God very day for sparing him. God willing, we will see the same faces next year, we never forget our fallen brothers. Jack Cunningham

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