Illegally Parked EMS Cars Stop Street Cleaners from Removing Sandy Debris

By Mathew Katz on November 30, 2012 6:55am 

CHELSEA — Residents of luxury condos near the High Line are once again fuming about a controversial ambulance station on their block — this time blaming emergency workers' illegally parked cars for stopping their street from being cleaned after Hurricane Sandy.

On Thursday, mud, trash and dead leaves cluttered the concrete below and between more than a dozen cars that sat in a "No Standing" zone on the northern curb of West 22nd Street between 10th and 11th avenues.

Each had an FDNY placard on the dashboard, including three that appeared to have been flooded during the storm, with condensation inside their windows and water damage in the interior.

"No cleaning has been done on our street because of all of those cars," said Elissa Burke, 49, who heads up at the condo board at the Spears Building on the block.

"We've complained," added Alec Stais, Burke's husband. "We've just been told that insurance companies have to [tow] it."

On Nov. 14, the city pledged to start ticketing cars destroyed by Sandy that violated parking rules.

The EMS station — an ambulance bay at 512 W. 23rd St. near 10th Avenue — flooded during the storm, knocking it out of commission for a few days. 

Jim Long, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said it's up to insurance companies to pick up flooded cars, and that the destroyed cars on the block should be moved soon.

He added that EMS workers are supposed to park their working personal vehicles in legal parking spots.

"My understanding is those that work in that area do park their cars in legal spots," he said, "and move them at the end of their round-the-clock shifts."

Officers at the NYPD's 10th Precinct said that summonses are not often issued to the parked cars bearing FDNY placards as a professional courtesy. After hearing complaints from neighbors, Community Affairs Officer Mike Petrillo assured residents at a 10th Precinct Community Council meeting Wednesday night that he would personally make sure the flooded cars were towed. 

A Sanitation Department spokesman said it's typical for emergency workers to move their cars when a street sweeper comes, otherwise the cleaner will just go around them.

The issue arose after the EMS station first moved under the High Line in 2011, but residents said that four cars flooded during Hurricane Sandy haven't moved since the storm — meaning the street hasn't been fully swept since waters rose several feet on the block.

This is not the first time the ambulance station came under fire from its luxe neighbors.

In August, dozens of residents complained about fumes from idling rescue vehicles and sirens keeping them up all night

Burke said that at any given time before Sandy, there were 10 to 20 FDNY placards gracing cars on the block,  adding that "it's been a problem before [the storm] — it's become free parking."

FDNY officials defended the station, saying the spot allows emergency workers to provide critical services along the West Side in the wake of the closure of St. Vincent's Hospital in 2010.

The station was initially set up as a temporary location, but FDNY officials moved to make the spot a permanent home for rescue workers in August.

Stais said the block's flooding during Sandy is another reason why it shouldn't be home to an ambulance station. 

"The EMS station is in a flood zone. It did flood. It caught them by surprise," he said.

"That's evidence — right there — that this is not the right place for the station." 

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