Red fire alarm boxes are commonplace in New York City. They've been around more than a century. But are they needed them anymore?
The city calls them a waste of money but is being blocked from removing them.
There are 15,000 of the boxes spread across New York City. There is an alarm box about every two blocks in parts of Queens. Many people on the streets of Astoria say they never even noticed the boxes.
According to the FDNY, in 2011, only 2.7 percent of all fire calls came from an alarm box. And 88 percent of those calls were false alarms.
The city would save an estimated $7 Million a year in repair costs on the boxes. Some of them are more than 100 years old.
New York City has tried several times to remove the costly boxes.
FDNY Commissioner Tom Von Essen and his boss, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, tried to get rid of the boxes for the first time in the mid-90s. It's been a long legal battle for the city that continues to this day.
Federal courts have blocked the city from removing the boxes several times.
Advocates for the hearing impaired have successfully argued that the boxes are a vital way for their community to report emergencies.
The Civic Association of the Deaf of New York City said in a statement to Fox 5 News: "Removing that system would violate the court order and deny the deaf an indispensable right enjoyed by all other New Yorkers -- to call for help when help is most needed."
Von Essen says that the deaf have special tools on their mobile phones that work just fine in an emergency.
The FDNY would not grant an interview but issued a statement to Fox 5 News saying: "Alarm boxes are very rarely used in New York City; and the overwhelming majority of calls from alarm boxes are maliciously reported false alarms which wastes Department resources and put the lives of our members and the public needlessly in danger."
City lawyers plan to head to court for a fourth time in an effort to get the OK to remove the boxes.