Sore spots: Parking outside Ft. Greene hospital snares ambulances, patients in traffic, staff claims

Sore spots: Parking outside Ft. Greene hospital snares ambulances, patients in traffic, staff claims
Clogged artery: Doctors and paramedics at Brooklyn Hospital Center claim double parking on DeKalb Avenue is slowing ambulances and keeping sick passengers from care.
Photo by Jason Speakman

These spots are to die for.

The city must remove metered-parking spaces on DeKalb Avenue outside a Fort Greene hospital because they create traffic that delays ambulances and their sick passengers from getting treatment, the medical center’s staff demanded.

“Our patients aren’t getting treated as fast as they should be,” said Brooklyn Hospital Center’s ambulance supervisor, Violet Rodriguez. “There are a lot of issues.”

Hospital reps proposed creating a no-standing zone to replace 10 spots between Ashland and Fort Greene places on the side of DeKalb Avenue nearest the facility during Community Board 2’s Transportation and Public Safety Committee meeting on Feb. 15.

There are currently metered-parking spaces on both sides of that stretch of DeKalb Avenue — a two-lane, Downtown-bound roadway that also features a bike lane and several bus stops on the B38 line, which, along with food truck operators who set up shop on the street and drivers who double- and triple-park, slow traffic near the medical center to a crawl, according to a Brooklyn Hospital bigwig.

And the congestion frequently leaves ambulances trapped on the roadway as they approach the infirmary’s entrance, sometimes forcing paramedics to unload patients who need urgent care on the street, the executive said.

“There’s a backup of ambulances and cars that are double parked on top of commercial traffic coming through. And if you have double-parked cars, you have to get the patients out at the sidewalk,” said Brooklyn Hospital’s vice president of external affairs Leroy Charles.

Reps from the medical center also warned that a planned expansion of its emergency department — paid for by a $26.2-million grant from the state’s Department of Health — will only further congest the roadway outside the facility if a solution isn’t found before the work begins.

“The traffic backs up and it’s creating problems, and will even more so when we begin construction of the emergency room in summer, or early fall, of this year,” Charles said.

Many of the community board’s transit gurus, however, questioned whether axing the spots is an effective way to alleviate traffic, especially because the hospital reps’ proposal — while supported by anecdotal evidence and a letter from the Fire Department — didn’t include hard data to back up its claims.

The committee members did not vote on the parking-removal request at the meeting, and instead suggested presenters hire an expert to survey the area for more evidence that losing the precious spots would result in substantial benefits.

“We have to balance the concerns of residents who drive, and residents who bike, with other things,” said Transportation and Public Safety Committee chairwoman Juliet Cullen-Cheung. “Maintaining parking is a concern, but safety and ambulance access is also a concern.”

But the health of sick and dying patients should always take precedence over a few measly parking spaces, according to the committee’s lone voice of dissent.

“Why don’t you just vote and give them those spots right now?” asked member Cheryl Gelbs. “If there’s a child in an ambulance that needs to get in there, and we’re talking about someone losing a parking spot — ridiculous!”

And street parking isn’t the only change Brooklyn Hospital honchos are pushing for in the area. The medical center’s leaders are set to sell its 21-story office-and-medical tower on Willoughby Street to a residential developer that will likely tear down the building to erect high-rise apartments overlooking Fort Greene Park.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Photo by Jason Speakman

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