Councilman Lew Fidler reported to Community Board 15 that he helped spearhead an effort to save the city’s volunteer ambulance corps. The city’s volunteer emergency services were barred from accessing the emergency dispatch system following an October decision from the FDNY, a move seen by some as an attempt to phase them out completely from the emergency medical response.
“I was kind of nonplussed that at a time when the president of the United States is hailing volunteerism, and the mayor of the City of New York has a volunteer action center, that we would cut off volunteer ambulances from serving the public,” Fidler told the Community Board at their February 23 meeting.
Earlier in the day, Fidler questioned EMS chief John Peruggia in a City Council Fire and Criminal Justice Committee hearing. During the hearing, Fidler said, the “most exceptional miracle we have ever seen” in the council occurred, with Peruggia reversing his position during questioning.
If the FDNY went forward with the blockout, about 2,000 volunteer paramedics and EMTs would’ve been kept from providing “critical support” to local communities. Volunteer services in and around Sheepshead Bay include local Hatzolah and the Gerritsen Beach Vollies.
“I was very pleased that the total illogic of it was so clear to Chief Peruggia – who began his career in Bensonhurst Volunteer Ambulance Corps – that he reversed that position,” said Fidler. “It goes to show you that sometimes when you question decisions good things happen and the right thing gets done.”