Scott Stringer to Give Harlem’s Historic Fire Watchtower an Expensive Makeover

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013
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The Harlem Fire Watchtower (Courtesy Paul Lowry)

The Harlem Fire Watchtower is in an extremely dilapidated state. (Courtesy Paul Lowry)

Earlier this week, Manhattan Borough President and City Controller candidate Scott Stringer announced his $1 million pledge to restore a historic Harlem fire watchtower at the heart of Marcus Garvey Park. In the 19th century, the 47-foot tower served as a lookout point and the bell was raised in case of imminent danger. Today, the tower no longer protects the community but threatens it, showing substantial signs of decay and neglect.

Running a tight race against Eliot Spitzer, Stringer lags behind the former governor in terms of African American votes and is thus seeking to salvage one of the community’s most valued landmarks. The past few days, he has generated good publicity from his ability and desire to fund this restoration project.The $1 million provided by Stringer, along with the $1.75 million contributed by Councilmember Inez Dickens and $1.25 million by Mayor Bloomberg will be used to preserve the tower. The project includes a full restoration of the tower’s cast-iron structure, the removal of deficient parts, and the additional construction of a stainless steel support system.

The bell used to be rung in case of a conflagration. Now it's on the verge of falling to pieces. (Courtesy Jeremy Seto)

The bell used to be rung in case of a conflagration. Now it’s on the verge of falling to pieces. (Courtesy Jeremy Seto)

As the 157-year-old tower continues to deteriorate, with parts of it falling from its structure each day, Stringer assures that the restoration project will contribute to a safer environment for Harlem inhabitants. Stringer plans on working collaboratively with the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, and the Mount Morris Community Improvement Association in order to protect a historic component of Harlem’s culture and history. The fire tower is the only surviving one of eleven cast-iron watchtowers placed throughout New York City since the 1850s. The project will ensure the preservation of one of the city’s most treasured historical remnants and will ultimately lead to a safer environment within the Harlem community.

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