Hit tip to www.thebravest.com:
“On June 2, 1901, the New York Times printed the following: "Few people in Greater New York realize what an important part the little red-painted fire-alarm 'telegraph operator' on the street corner plays in the protection of their lives and property from danger and destruction."
Installed largely at the turn of the 20th century, some of these cast iron fire alarm stanchions have been in use since 1870, with modifications. This one is along Alexander Avenue beside the Mitchel Houses.
According to http://www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/pdf/vital_stats_2009.pdf there were 473,024 total fire incidents in the five boroughs in 2009.
Thank you, FDNY.