An off-duty bus driver who injured his arm saving a young Coney Island girl from a three-story fall says the Metropolitan Transportation Authority nearly derailed his health insurance, leaving him scrambling to provide for his family on measly disability payments.
Steven St. Bernard, who lives in the Coney Island Houses between the Boardwalk and Surf Avenue, says he was in jeopardy of losing his benefits because he was off the clock when he rescued 7-year-old Keyla McCree after she fell from a window last month at the same housing complex — a good deed he says that left him with a shredded arm tendon requiring extensive medical procedures, including drilling into the bone of his forearm and installing metal supports.
“I didn’t realize I’d lose my benefits when my sick days ran out,” said St. Bernard, adding that his arm is still in a sling, and that he still can’t move his wrist, although he recently began to get feeling back in his fingers.
Friends told St. Bernard early on that he should make sure that his MTA benefits wouldn’t expire while he healed.
“I told him, you’ve got to get on this stuff before it’s too late,” said Coney Island activist Todd Dobrin. “It would be a shame if he lost his way of providing for himself and his family as a result of such an unselfish act.”
The Johnny-on-the-spot bus driver received some relief when state Sen. Diane Savino (D–Coney Island) hammered out an agreement with the MTA so St. Bernard could keep his benefits. Savino said she was also trying to reach an agreement with the Housing Authority to get the man’s rent lowered until he can return to work again.
MTA officials say St. Bernard’s benefits will never expire.
“Steve St. Bernard is a hero and the MTA has always treated him as one,” MTA head spokesman Adam Lisberg, who said that the Authority has been in constant contact with St. Bernard since his heroic act. “He has never lost his health benefits and if we have anything to say about it we never will.”
Yet St. Bernard, says he isn’t out of the woods yet: he claims the $1,400 disability payment he receives barely covers his rent.
“I said, my rent is $1,200 a month, so what am I to do?” said the good Samaritan, who remains humble about his heroics.
“I was in the right place in the right time with a child who needed help,” he said.Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderma