Brooklyn Central Office, Bureau of Fire Communications

35 Empire Boulevard
Frank J. Helmle

This Renaissance Revival style T-plan building was constructed for the Fire Department of New York City and served as the central fire communications and telegraph station for the borough of Brooklyn. Four other stations were planned and built during the 1910s and ‘20s in Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, addressing in part the need for an improved citywide firefighting system. A 1911 article in McClure’s magazine had called New York City’s fire-alarm system the “worst” and most antiquated in the nation. These stations were intended to improve the efficiency of municipal fire-fighting efforts by receiving all fire signals from across a borough, and then routing the signals to the appropriate local precinct. The buildings were typically located in or near parks in order to minimize the threat of fire, but also to provide space for the large radio towers transmitting the fire signals. Architecturally, the Brooklyn station is an excellent example of the City Beautiful movement. This otherwise utilitarian building is given an important civic presence through the use of high-style design, materials and ornament, in this case inspired by an early Italian Renaissance “palazzo.” With its counterparts in the other four boroughs, the Brooklyn station represents an important step taken by the FDNY in response to the growing threat of fire in the city’s tenement and industrial districts in the early years of the 20th century. The property is still owned by the FDNY, and is an Individual Landmark..