The Bensonhurst Volunteer Ambulance Service has put its building up for sale in a last-ditch effort to save the 30-year-old life-saving institution.
“The trouble began this year when insurance rates hit $35,000 annually,” said incoming President Ron Fedele. “Combine that with the rising cost of heat, electricity, and a significant drop in donations and we just couldn’t keep up.”
The service grounded its fleet of ambulances in December, and this week, Fedele announced that BVAS would sell its headquarters on New Utrecht Avenue in hope of reopening in a smaller, and cheaper, building.
“We are going to downsize to the point where we can be successful,” said Fedele.
Lives are, literally, at stake.
Because of its small coverage area, BVAS ambulances could typically shave two or three minutes off of the standard city response time, which explains why Bensonhurst residents often called BVAS’s hotline rather than 911.
“If you call 911, your average wait time is six to seven minutes [but] if you call BVAS, the average is three to four minutes. If you are having a heart attack or stroke, three minutes is a big deal,” Fedele said.
New board Chairman Frank Morano added that the sale of the building was a necessary “first step” to ensure the future of the organization.
Decreasing expenses is half the equation. Fedele said that if donations don’t pick up, no amount of downsizing could keep the service running.
“All the volunteer groups are having problems with fundraising,” added Eileen LaRuffa, who was with BVAS when it began in 1974.
Fedele sees a correlation between a drop in donations and the new Bensonhurst melting pot.
“One key goal will be to reach out to the new community and let them know that we need their support,” Fedele said.
Fedele added that he is also working closely with state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge), who secured a $2,500 grant for BVAS last February.
“These volunteer ambulance services continue to provide excellent and compassionate care to the residents of our community in our times of most need,” Golden said at the time.
A Golden spokesman said the senator plans on continuing to help the beleaguered volunteers.
“If there is any indication that they need our support again this year they can count on it,” said Golden spokesmen John Quaglione.
Fedele said BVAS ambulances should be back saving lives within eight weeks — pending the sale of their current headquarters.
“We will be back better than ever,” added Chief of Operations, William Perry.
Anyone who wants to donate or volunteer should call (718) 837-5032.
©2007 Community News Group
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