People in Red Hook are slowly to understand that the closing of Long Island College Hospital is a disaster for Red Hook.
A tragic combination of news about a death that followed a half hour or more wait for an ambulance, plus an accident on Lorraine and Hicks that killed a 14 year-old-boy, led Wally Bazemore to call Felix Ortiz who called Carlos Menchaca who together called an emergency community meeting on Monday, June 1 at 5 pm.
So many community stakeholders showed up that the meeting had to be moved from a small room in the basement, across the hall to the cafeteria. Captain Lenz of the 76th precinct, along with other officers and Community Liaison Vincent Marrone were early arrivals. Other attendees included Robert Berrios, Henrietta Perkins, Francis Brown, who is the acting head of Red Hook East Tenants, her husband Hal, Victoria Hagman of Realty Collective, Mary from Dry Dock Wines and Spirit, Khadijah James and much of the Cruz family (it was Daniel Cruz Jr., who suffered the asthma attack and died before the hospital could help him), Wally Bazemore, John McGettrick, head of the Red Hook Civic Association, Cheryl Braxton, Kimberly Gail Price, Leroy Branch from Community Board 6, Karen Blondell, two from Menchaca’s office and Mitu Maruf representing Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, who was in Albany.
The meeting began with a long discussion about traffic, prompted by the deadly accident earlier that day. Braxton pointed out that Lorraine Street has become much busier since IKEA opened up in 2006, but no stoplights had been added. Everyone agreed that Hicks and Lorraine has had more than their share of accidents. Captain Lenz explained what happened that morning.
At about 6:50 am, 14 year-old Nicholas Soto saw the bus arriving across the street. He ran into the street to try and catch it. This was across from the ballfield at the corner of Hicks and Lorraine. A BMW with Jersey plates, who Lenz explained was someone who was on his work to work, also saw the bus and moved a bit to the right side of his lane, without slowing down. He never saw Soto, and hit him going full speed. Soto was thrown onto the hood of the car and smashed the right side of the windshield. The BMW carried Soto across the intersection which is when he slammed on the brakes. Hitting the brakes caused Soto to fly off the car onto the ground. Police and ambulances showed up, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital. According to the Daily News, the driver, 28 year-old Juan Mancebo, of Elmwood Park NJ, was devastated and “sat on the curb for something like two hours, crying.”
Carlos asked for advice from the concerned gathering and promised to follow up all suggestions with DOT and other branches of government. Someone asked about school crossing guards, and Captain Lenz said in fact that they have openings for guards, and he might be able to put a new person on Lorraine once one got hired. Other complaints included frequent double parking – often by trucks, lack of stop lights and stop signs, and speeding cars. Someone suggested speed bumps, but it was explained that speed bumps are not put on roads that are part of an MTA bus route, nor are they put on two-way streets.
Another suggested having the city buses make some stops right near the houses, allowing school kids pick up the bus more safely. Mary from Dry Dock complained about 54 foot trucks and an accident on Van Brunt last month that the police haven’t prosecuted. Robert Berrios said that buses in New Jersey have decals on them that tell drivers to slow down when approaching.
After about 45 minutes, Khadijah James got up to speak eloquently about the death of her in-law. Daniel Cruz, Jr., suffered an asthma attack last week and died as his brain did not get oxygen for at least 40 minutes. The family is very upset, claiming that ambulances were very late showing up, and only showed up after they grabbed a police officer from the street. The officer gave CPR and used his radio to get help.
A long conversation follwed with people wondering how LICH could be allowed to close. It was pointed out that a LICH ambulance used to be stationed by Coffey Park, with drivers who knew the neighborhood. Finding an address in the Red Hook Houses can be confusing to someone who has never done it before. With LICH closing, ambulances from all over are being sent to answer Red Hook calls. In fact, one of the Cruz daughter’s suffered an anxiety attack that evening, right at the Miccio Center. Captain Lenz himself radioed for an ambulance. Finally one from Maimonides showed up, and the family says it was a half hour before she was delivered to the hospital, with is on 48th Street and Tenth Avenue in Brooklyn.
Additional topics included soil and air contamination in Red Hook, and the overgrown condition of Coffey Park, as it sits fenced off awaiting a promised renovation.