The FDNY finds “not in my back yard” reaction
(this news item was offered by Dr. David Kaufman)
Last November, the FDNY established the EMS Station depot at 512 West 23rd Street, a privately owned plot. The ambulances provide critical emergency services since the close of St Vincent’s Hospital and its own ambulance station in 2010. Since then, residents of West Chelsea have expressed their hostility towards the plan to keep ambulances serving the West Side. They claim that the loitering vehicles, sirens and fumes will affect their quality of life. However, the vehicles need to keep power supplied to specialized medical equipment, such as computers and refrigerators that keep medicine cool.
The Fire Department is now asking for a land-use change that would allow for an extension of the station’s month-to-month rent agreement at the site to a longer-term lease. The full CB4 board ultimately voted to ask the City Planning Department to deny the FDNY’s application for the land-use change unless the FDNY agreed to enclose and ventilate the area, investigate alternative fuels such as natural gas for their vehicles, and ramp up their search for a new location outside of a residential area.
The board also voted to alert Speaker Christine Quinn about the ongoing resident complaints regarding the station, asking her to intervene if things get worse.
The 3,656-square-foot station directly beneath the High Line allows ambulances to re-stock and clean up after each emergency trip. Without it, FDNY officials said that rescue vehicles would have to travel all the way to a station at Bellevue Hospital on the East Side after emergency runs, forcing ambulances to wait a full two hours until they can return to the streets, compared to just 30 minutes at the Chelsea station.
“My first quality-of-life issue is life itself,” said David Harney, chief of staff for the Deputy Fire Commissioner, appearing last week at a Community Board 4 meeting to ask for support for the land-use change, which will be decided on by the City Planning Department.
“Not having a facility on the West Side of Manhattan is detrimental to our operations,” he added. “Right now, the landlord could evict us with 30 days notice.”
The FDNY is still looking for another, permanent site for the station, but that process could take years, and it wants to feel secure at the location it already operates, Harney explained.
“The Fire Department could not wait three years to identify, go through a land-use review, design, and build a permanent facility to service this critical area,” he said.