4 THE QUEENS COURIER • SEPTEMBER 12, 2019 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Gates blocking Willets Point streets slowed response to emergencies
BY MAX PARROTT
When exploding tire shrapnel struck a
young mechanic in the chest and knocked
him unconscious in a Willets Point auto
shop recently, emergency responders were
stalled by the same gates that block several
major streets to the industrial enclave,
according to a Queens Courier investigation.
Th e city erected the gates early in July as
part of its ambitious plan to transform the
neglected industrial area in Willets Point
into three aff ordable housing buildings,
a public park and an elementary school,
among other developments to be determined
Bayside’s ‘Sunday Stroll’ returns on Sept. 22
BY JENNA BAGCAL
Head to Bell Boulevard in Bayside later
this month to indulge in a day of good
eats, free live music and family fun activities.
The Bayside Village Business
Improvement District announced this
year’s Sunday Stroll on Sept. 22, which
draws in thousands, for one last hurrah
before summer ends. From noon
to 5 p.m., Bell Boulevard between 38th
and 42nd avenues will transform into a
giant block party for the neighborhood
NYPD offi cers will shut the stretch
down to vehicular traffi c, providing a safe,
stress-free environment. BID Executive
Director Christine Silletti said that last
year’s Sunday Stroll drew in over 2,000
Attendees should be ready to eat from
dozens of participating restaurants along
the thoroughfare. Establishments will
off er free samples, special discounts and
al fresco dining, complete with chairs and
tables set up outside.
Guests can also enjoy live music by
local favorites Skeedle Brothers, Chicken
Head Rocks and Mike Tedesco. Th e BID
announced special performances by competitors
from Bourbon Street’s “Voice of
Bourbon” and anyone who wants to participate
in an aft ernoon of karaoke.
Aft er chowing down, families who
attend the stroll can choose from tons of
activities from creating DIY paper mosaics
to a game of volleyball. Other activities
include ping pong, sand art, bounce
houses, slime making and the Bayside’s
Got Talent competition.
To learn more about this free event, visit
Bayside Village BID on Facebook or at
Photo by Luis Zapata
Children having a festive time at the Bell Boulevard Sunday Stroll in Bayside back in 2018.
by a city task force.
But in executing the fi rst phase of the
city’s plan, the Department of Housing
Preservation and Development (HPD)
made street closures that are fi nancially
hurting the shop owners who remain
in the Iron Triangle and cutting them off
from emergency response services.
Sam Sambucci, a neighboring auto shop
owner, said he timed the response on
Aug. 15 at 127-26 Willets Point Blvd. He
claimed it lasted almost 16 minutes for
the ambulance to navigate around the
gates blocking off two out of the four of
the streets leading into the Iron Triangle.
Th ough the New York City Fire
Department’s dispatch report for the tire
accident was not perfectly consistent with
Sambucci’s timekeeping, both records
indicated the response time was signifi -
cantly longer than the FDNY’s average
response time, based on the city’s most
For a medical emergency in Queens, the
FDNY data shows that it takes an average
of 4 minutes and 43 seconds to respond.
A spokesperson for the FDNY said that
it took them 13 minutes on Aug. 15 to
arrive at the scene of the injured mechanic.
Sambucci indicated it took 15 minutes
and 35 seconds for an ambulance to
arrive, based on screenshots he took from
his phone timer that the Queens Courier
reviewed for this report.
“When it comes to an accident, if somebody
had a say a stroke or a heart attack —
even if he was bleeding, say he had a bad
cut and he was bleeding — 13 minutes,
14 to 15 minutes, you’re dead,” Sambucci
said. Th e inconsistencies between the two
accounts don’t end there.
While the FDNY initially reported that
they received Sambucci’s call at 4:09 p.m.,
they walked it back later, stating that they
actually got the call at 4:12 p.m. When
asked about the three-minute diff erence
between the confl icting times, the spokesperson
clarifi ed that 4:12 p.m. was when
FDNY dispatchers assigned the ambulance.
Sambucci disputed not just the timeframe
provided by the FDNY, but their
sequence of events.
Th e FDNY claimed that an ambulance
was the fi rst vehicle to arrive. On the other
hand, Sambucci claimed that a fi re truck
arrived aft er 13 minutes of waiting, but
the EMS vehicle took another two minutes
to get there.
Juan Alonso, a mechanic who works
next door to Sambucci’s shop, confi rmed
the order of events to the Queens Courier
and estimated it took 15 to 20 minutes for
the ambulance to arrive.
Th e worker who was struck by the
tire ended up gaining consciousness and
recovering from the accident by the time
the ambulance arrived. But Sambucci said
that the incident was a warning call.
If the city does not open up some of
the gated streets, a similar accident in the
future could be fatal.
“I’m in no way blaming the fi re department
for what happened,” Sambucci
added. “It’s the city with the street closures
and the double-parked cars that
Aft er the city closed the south end of
Willets Point Boulevard along with 36th,
37th and 38th avenues, the 35th Avenue
became the closest street to access the
south end of the Iron Triangle. Th is is a
problem because on typical business day
35th Avenue is clogged with triple- and
double-parked cars in the street, according
According to the Department of
Housing Preservation and Development,
the gates have been erected aft er the streets
were “de-mapped,” a process through
which the city makes streets alterations to
the offi cial City Map.
Aft er being asked about how long the
city intends to keep the streets gated
off , the city’s Economic Development
Corporation (EDC), the group overseeing
the entire Willets Point development,
has not yet provided an offi cial comment
to the Queens Courier.
The closed section of Willets Point Boulevard, located just south of the accident on Aug. 15.