After decades of assisting ailing neighbors, the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps is calling on the community to help resuscitate the corps.
The ambulance corps temporarily shut its doors, at 78-15 Jamaica Ave., last weekend after melting snow from the partially collapsed building next door seeped into the corps’ headquarters, the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association said.
The Fire Department said it dispatched firefighters to 78-15 Jamaica Ave. Saturday afternoon in response to flooding concerns. Firefighters were concerned about structural integrity at the neighboring building, at 78-19 Jamaica Ave., which buckled last spring. The FDNY said it referred the matter to the city Department of Buildings.
Edward Wendell, a WRBA director, videotaped what he described as 2 feet of water pooling up in the ambulance corps. He believed the corps’ roof was overwhelmed with snow and slush spilling over from 78-19 Jamaica Ave., where the roof caved in on a shuttered furniture store last spring.
The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association has since organized a March 2 rally to draw attention to the ambulance corps’ closure and urge the city to force the landlord, 78-19 Jamaica Avenue LLC, to mend the situation.
“It would be a real tragedy to lose something so special,” Wendell said of the ambulance corps. “Every day that goes on, the building is not only an eyesore, it’s a danger looming over Jamaica Avenue.”
The ambulance corps has wrangled with many problems since 78-19 Jamaica Ave. caved in April 12.
Some of the bricks and debris from the partial collapse damaged an emergency exit to the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the incident led to flooding, toxic mold and mildew at the headquarters, according to a lawsuit the nonprofit filed against the landlord.
The Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center that used to rent space from the corps has since relocated, leaving the corps with a financial burden.
The ambulance corps had been operating out of a portion of its old facility, but has now lost access to all of 78-15 Jamaica Ave., the WRBA said.
George Kochabe, head officer of 78-19 Jamaica Avenue LLC, declined to comment.
Problems persisted at 78-19 Jamaica Ave. before the collapse. The city had issued an order to vacate the second floor of the building just before the structure fell apart. At the time, the building had more than 30 open violations with the DOB and another eight with the city Environmental Control Board.
The landlord currently owes $60,500 in fines for open violations, doing work without a permit and failing to correct hazards.
The city has issued an arrest warrant for Kochabe after he failed to appear in court to respond to a criminal summons stemming from hazards at 78-19 Jamaica Ave., the DOB said.
Kochabe has also been hit with two civil suits.
One came from a contractor with Casella Construction, which Kochabe hired to fix the building before the April 12 incident. The construction worker alleged that he was rendered disabled and internally and externally injured during the cave-in.
The volunteer ambulance corps also filed a civil case against 78-19 Jamaica Avenue LLC, requesting that the court order it to fix the building and compensate the nonprofit $8 million for its damages.
Still, the building remains in limbo.
“Too many times people say something should have been done after it’s too late,” Wendell said. “At this point, it needs to come down.”
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@c
©2014 Community News Group
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