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Morris Park firehouse celebrates centennial

The central firehouse serving Morris Park, which houses the companies of Engine 90 and Ladder 41, celebrated 100 years of service this past Monday, May 3, in a mega centennial blowout.

Some found it hard to believe the house had been sitting at its location on White Plains Road for an entire century.

“100 years goes by very quickly,” said Herb Kramer, who is 77 and said time has flown since he went to junior high at what used to be P.S. 34, on Amethyst Street, but is now a condo complex. “From ‘45-’47, I hung around this firehouse with all my friends,” he said. “They were a great bunch of guys. Of course, that was back when firemen had no fancy gear, they went to work in jeans and used ladders made of wood.”

In addition to neighborhood locals like Kramer, the centennial celebration pulled 147 alumni of the house from all over the country, though most came from upstate New York. Meanwhile, the occasion was equally meaningful for the current firemen of the house, even if they had only been there for a few years and were less steeped in the building’s rich history. “All the guys are definitely excited today,” said Captain Michael Gallino. “I’ve been here almost four years. We went from being a slow engine to one of the busiest in the city. We had a lot of huge saves this year, and we’ve seen heavy action.” Gallino also noted how eager the current firemen were to meet some of the retired guys. “When you retire from here, you’re never done,” said Gallino, just before greeting an older alum of Engine 90.

All around Gallino were other former firefighters reuniting. They slapped each other on the back and could be heard saying things like, “What are you doin’ here, you old bag!” and, “Oh look at you, big guy!”

Chris Vignali has been a firefighter at Engine 90 for nine years, and took the lead role in organizing Monday’s centennial, with the help of his devoted girlfriend, Stacy Bourne. A large stretch of White Plains Road was shut down to cars for the whole morning, and as Bourne added, “They got special polo shirts made up that they’ll all wear when they go over to Maestro’s after this.”

Vignali’s father, Frank, worked at Ladder 41 and had 32 years of history with the FDNY before retiring. “There’s a lot of tradition here,” said Vignali, standing with his dad. “We have a plaque up on our wall from 1909, when the house opened its doors, and now, today, a new 100-year plaque will go up next to it for everyone to see, forever.”

That plaque still had a sheet covering it when all the firemen of Engine 90 and Ladder 41 shuffled inside the garage to watch a special ceremony that began with bagpipes and the singing of our national anthem. Soon enough, FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano addressed the nearly 300 people present and called the company of Engine 90 and Ladder 41 “the best the FDNY has to offer.” Cassano said that FDNY firefighters “have sacrificed more for this city than any other organization.”

Chief of Department Edward Kilduff, meanwhile, made happy mention of the sun, which was finally coming out and shining into the open garage. “We’re glad the rain stopped, because you guys deserve to have the best day possible to celebrate your centennial,” he said. Edward Brown, UFA Bronx Trustee, got some laughs when he, like Herb Kramer, compared the old neighborhood to today’s. “Years ago, around here, guys wore leather jackets and chains,” he said. “Now, I can go buy a live goat down the street.”

Finally, the new plaque was revealed. “100 years of dedicated service,” it reads. Below that: “This day is dedicated to our members, past and present, who have given so much and who have built a great tradition that will be continued by those that follow.” The plaque then lists the role call of all currently active firefighters and commanding officers.

“This really brings back a lot of memories,” said Chris Tutone, who worked at Engine 90 for 12 years and came from Long Island for the centennial. His wife could only look at him admiringly as he took it all in.

Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or droberts@cnglocal.com

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