Several firefighters operated a rope mechanism to pull up a trio of pleated American flag buntings hovering over a portion of the Stony Road firehouse name on Monday afternoon to reveal “Bill Pascrell Jr.” written on the front of the building.
“You don’t know what this means to me,” said Pascrell, a longtime member of the U.S. House of Representatives, in a lengthy ceremony naming the Paterson fire headquarters after him.
Municipal officials saw it fitting to name the fire headquarters after the congressman for his role in writing and shepherding legislations through the U.S. Congress that provides millions of dollars in federal funds to firehouses all across the United States.
Pascrell authored the Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement Act (FIRE) which became law in 2001, creating the only federal program delivering grant funds directly to local fire departments.
The program is now called the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program. He also came up with the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program which provides federal funds to adequately staff local fire departments.
Pascrell helped to secure a $4.5 million federal grant that allowed for the construction of the very fire headquarters that now bear his name.
“We get to celebrate the champion for Paterson,” said fire chief Brian McDermott. He also described Pascrell as a “champion” for all fire departments in the U.S.
Firefighters from many New Jersey municipalities gathered at the firehouse on McBride Avenue to pay tribute to Pascrell (pictured with his wife Elsie). Fire apparatuses from Passaic City, Clifton, and Jersey City were in front of the firehouse to demonstrate their support for the congressman.
“You are sir, the firefighter’s champion, there’s no doubt about it,” said Kyle Hughes, president of the Paterson firefighters’ union. He took the theme a step further by handing the congressman a large wrestling belt, making him the champion of firefighters everywhere in America, while “Eye of The Tiger,” a song in the film “Rocky,” began to play in the background.
Pascrell’s name is recognized by firefighters all over the country, said Hughes.
“The fire department has always been special to me,” said Pascrell.
Pascrell, 82, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996. Before that he served as the mayor of Paterson from 1990-96, according to the resolution the City Council approved to name the firehouse after him.
“We’re paying homage to our great Paterson fighter while he can still witness the respect, love, and loyalty this community has for him and his work,” said council president Maritza Davila, who sponsored the resolution.
Municipal officials settled on naming the fire headquarters after looking at other buildings. Mayor Andre Sayegh said some suggested naming School 25 after the congressman. There’s a famous picture of Pascrell on the school field’s with Lou Costello.
“This day is long overdue,” said public safety director Jerry Speziale.