After an early-morning fire destroyed two specialized Central Park ambulances in an Upper West Side garage last week, the Central Park Medical Unit is crowdfunding money to replace them.
Custom-designed to fit under Central Park’s bridges—allowing CPMU to respond more quickly to emergencies—the ambulances cost $150,000 to $175,000 apiece. Two of the unit’s three vehicles were destroyed when a two-alarm fire raged through a garage on 108th Street and Amsterdam Avenue early last Thursday morning.
A Crowdrise page created by CPMU has raised nearly $47,000 as of late Monday night—progress, but a long way to go until the two ambulances can be replaced. CPMU also needs an additional $25,000 to replace ruined equipment.
“The outpouring of support from the community has been phenomenal,” Rafael Castellanos, president of CPMU, said. “Now the shoe is on the other foot, and we’re the ones who need to be helped and need to be saved.”
Castellanos said that while the two ambulances were insured, there was still a big gap between the insurance payment and the actual damage caused to the ambulances.
In the meantime, CPMU is loaning two regular-sized ambulances––one from New York-Presbyterian Hospital and one from the North Shore-LIJ Health System––but they’re much larger than the CPMU vehicles. The third specialized ambulance, stored in a different garage, was unaffected.
Castellanos said that to his knowledge, there are no other ambulances in the city—or anywhere—that are the same size as CPMU’s.
“They’re really very special,” he said.
A fire department spokesperson said that the cause of last week’s fire was “still under investigation by the marshal.”
Owners of the building where the garage is located could not be reached for comment, though according to property records, the property has been held by Welton Bros. since 1966.
A man working at the garage on Monday afternoon who identified himself as the owner said that he thinks the fire was “some kind of electrical fire. … No one really knows anything.”
However, West Side Rag reported on Sunday that the New York Police Department considered the fire “suspicious.”
Castellanos said that he felt bad for the owner of the garage, which will need extensive repair.
“He’s a nice gentleman who allowed us to park there for free for decades,” Castellanos said. “I feel very bad for the gentleman.”
Castellanos said he found out about the fire in an email on Thursday morning, and went directly to the garage to check on the ambulances, where he was told by city officials that his vehicles were “toast.”
One of them, Castellanos said, “was black—it was completely black.”