Posts Tagged ‘street furniture’

The city’s disappearing sidewalk fire alarms

July 23, 2011

These handsome pieces of street furniture—check out the Art Nouveau decorative touches as well as the torch on top—must have saved many lives in the pre-911 landline era.

Now they’re relics of a non-digital New York, one where all a resident had to do to report a fire was pull a tab or door, and a signal would be sent indicating the alarm’s location.

In the 1970s, some of these turn of the century alarms were fitted with fire and police tabs allowing for voice communication with a dispatcher.

In 1994, the Giuliani administration tried to disconnect them, arguing that 911 displaced the alarms. But critics insisted that deaf New Yorkers would have no way to report a blaze.

Last year, Mayor Bloomberg also suggested deactivating these mechanical alarms in favor of relying on cell phones and 911.

And before long, a once-ubiquitous sight on city sidewalks will become harder and harder to find. [Top: Seventh Avenue and 14th Street; right: Ninth Avenue and 26th Street]