the death of an 11-year-old boy, is Albany doing all it can
to prevent another EMS tragedy?
is a sad reality that sometimes when you dial 911, there is
nothing left to come,” said Dr. Michael Dailey, Albany Fire
Department’s medical director. “But we have to plan and develop
contingencies so that we can make sure that it is as rare
Dailey was put in charge of the task force appointed by Albany
Mayor Jerry Jennings to investigate the reason why it took
Mohawk Ambulance 25 minutes to deliver an ambulance on May
19 to McCormack Road in Albany, the scene of an accident that
took the life of 11-year-old Benjamin Cocco.
Dailey said that the task force looked at all the elements
of dispatch pertaining the McCormack Road call, “to start
to understand how we can make sure, with a good expression
of certainty, that this won’t happen again.”
This task force released its final report last month on what
it referred to, incorrectly, as the McCormack Road Response
for May 17, blaming the delay on human error on the part of
the Mohawk dispatcher. The report states that the dispatcher
has since been retrained and that the company is taking steps
to try to prevent future complications.
(A copy of the final report is available online at metroland.typepad.net.)
Mohawk, a regional private ambulance provider, claimed that
it answered 15,572 calls in the city of Albany last year and
close to 30,000 around the region, with an average response
time of 6 minutes, 22 seconds for Priority 1 calls. The national
average, the company stated, is less than 8 minutes, 59 seconds.
Mohawk signed a contract with the city in 2007 to provide
year-round ambulance service for “all calls assigned to it
by the city.” The contract states that the company will answer
90 percent of all the higher priority calls within less than
As Albany 3rd Ward Councilman and mayoral candidate Corey
Ellis pointed out, the company, which is owned by the McPartlon
family of Schenectady, is a generous contributor to political
campaigns. Since 2006, Mohawk, along with members of the McPartlon
family, has donated at least $35,165 to local and statewide
campaigns. Jennings has received at least $9,000 of this money,
either donated to his Jennings 2009 (Primary Election Committee)
or to his PAC, Capital City Committee.
In the days after Cocco’s death, memos from inside the city
fire department were leaked to the press. According to reports
from the Times Union and CBS6, there were at least
three incidents in 2008 in which Mohawk failed to deliver
an ambulance to the scene of a medical emergency within an
appropriate amount of time. The longest response time was
40 minutes, followed by 30 and 27 minutes.
Along with contracting ambulance services with the city, Mohawk
also provides institution-to-institution transport, such as
transferring hospital patients or residents of nursing homes.
A memo written by AFD Lt. Kim Ciprioni to a deputy chief Frank
Nerney warned that Mohawk appeared to be spreading its fleet
too thin due to these transfers, the TU reported. On
some days, only half of the ambulances in Albany were available
to answer emergency calls.
Tom Nardacci, speaking on behalf of Mohawk, maintained that
the leaked memos contained factual errors; however, he didn’t
elaborate on the nature of these errors or whether or not
the reports of lengthy response times were inaccurate.
According to Nardacci, there were five ambulances in Albany
at the time of the Cocco accident: Three were engaged in 911
calls and two were engaged in transports. A sixth ambulance
was directed from Troy after the McCormack Road 911 call.
Ellis asked why the report made no mention of the previous
complaints by the fire department. According to Dailey, the
task force briefly “touched on” the previous incidents of
delayed response, but instead chose to focus on the events
surrounding the May 19 response, to focus their efforts to
correct systemic issues. He pointed out that the city had
already investigated the previous delays.
During the task force meetings, Mohawk was represented by
its vice president of operations, Rich Brandt. Dailey called
Brandt’s interactions with the task force “frank.”
were very impressed with the amount of investment that he
was immediately taking to prevent things that he saw were
potential problems,” Dailey said, such as the need for communication-device
upgrades, among others.
Another recommendation made by Brandt, and adopted by the
task force, is to increase staffing numbers for evening and
nighttime shifts. When Metroland asked Nardacci whether
this recommendation meant that Mohawk recognized that its
staffing numbers prior to the May 19 incident were insufficient,
he had no comment.
Dailey said that, according to the task force’s research,
Mohawk, “is doing it right 94 percent of the time.”
Another question Ellis posed is why the task force didn’t
even consider “the potential of having a city-run ambulance
service. You would think that you would look at that as an
option, especially with the number of previous complaints
about Mohawk. And it has the possibility to make the city
This January, Watervliet began ambulance transport alongside
the first-response services provided by its fire department.
Troy has been running its own ambulance service for years.
Utica has been running municipal ambulances since 2005. Utica
Mayor David R. Roefaro announced with his 2009-2010 budget
that the service netted the city more than $1.2 million in
revenue in 2008.
Colonie’s municipal ambulance service, said Dailey, is “spectacular.
It has some of the best statistics in the state with things
such as cardiac-arrest survival.”
would welcome a chance to discuss a new approach with the
councilman,” he continued, in response to Ellis’ query.
administration,” Ellis said, “was warned previously that there
were issues and they did nothing about it. They had the warning
signs. And now because of this unfortunate incident they say,
‘Now we’re going to do something about it.’ This administration
is never proactive, always reactive. They bring an ad-hoc
committee together of people who support the mayor, who are
friends of the mayor, who contribute to him, and then they
said, ‘OK, we fixed it.’ I don’t think that is the way we
should handle this. Emergency service is too critical to the
Little Bit of Paint
residents come together on project to care for their alley
you ever tried to organize 10 people to come paint your house
at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning? How about 80? Community
organizers in Troy are doing just that.
wanted neighborhood groups to do a project they could be proud
of,” said Sid Fleisher, one of the primary organizers of Troy’s
Alley Action Project, which works toward “creative solutions
to ongoing neglect” by helping residents reinvest in a communal
On July 25, the alley project brought community members out
to complete work on a mural on the backside of the Troy Area
United Ministries building. While the mural is not visible
from the street, it is visible to residents of Third and Second
streets who live off of the Franklin Street alley.
The current project has a long history that began with Jim
Bevevino, a retired Watervliet Arsenal employee who patrolled
the Franklin Street alley for 30 years with a golf club over
his shoulder, greeting neighbors and keeping watch. After
Bevevino died four years ago, Fleisher came up with an idea
to keep alive the spirit of Bevevino’s civic activism.
Fleisher introduced his plan to a community-design course
he taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2005 and
2006. It had to “make a big impact quickly” and “get a lot
of people involved,” he told his students. What emerged was
the Alley Improvement Project, a comprehensive guide to remodeling
local alleyways, dedicated to the memory of Bevevino.
The city of Troy has 43 miles of alleyway, much of which is
in various states of disrepair. What was once a vibrant meeting
place for neighbors now hosts overgrown weeds and loose trash,
Fleisher claimed. Disrepair also presents a serious problem
for medical and emergency personnel, who use the alleys as
one of the main sources of entry into buildings. Clutter can
obstruct vehicles from reaching the interior of the alley.
Most buildings lack alley-side identification numbers, forcing
first responders to actually count the number of buildings
from the street, said Dave Paul, president of the Troy Uniformed
Fleisher’s community-design course, co-taught with architect
and muralist Barbara Nelson, produced a 36-page booklet giving
tips on garbage management, parking, fencing and landscaping.
a recipe book,” Fleisher said. The class also produced a series
of murals throughout downtown Troy, which include the faces
of Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe.
When the Alley Improvement Project ended in 2006, however,
Fleisher wasn’t satisfied.
came to me and said, ‘We can take it further,’ ” said Pleasant
DeSpain, an organizer who became involved with the project
through Fleisher. They also share an alley.
The group applied for funding through the Rubin Foundation
and were rewarded a $12,000 grant to turn the Franklin Street
alley into a demonstration model. The alley was cleaned up,
flowers were planted and residents were mobilized to paint
the mural that would adorn the TAUM building.
delivered a letter by hand to everyone who lived on the alley,”
said DeSpain. The letter detailed the group’s plan and invited
residents to participate. Initial concerns gave way to enthusiasm,
finding more residents involved in the mural’s design, in
particular young people.
In a series of workshops led by Nelson and local artist Armando
Soto, children as young as 4 and 5 were asked to brainstorm
images they associated with words like “love” and “family.”
The resulting collage was projected onto a 50-ft-by-18-ft
wall for the paint-by-numbers event on the last Saturday in
Neighbors even incorporated DeSpain’s building, complete with
his wife’s flower garden, into the mural, something he said
he takes great pride in.
is just beginning the foundation,” said DeSpain. The Alley
Action Project expects that other community groups will pick
up where they left off. They are also planning a number of
workshops to spread the word. However, Fleisher and DeSpain
were quick to point out that the actual painting part of the
project doesn’t cost $12,000. A large portion of the grant
money is going toward work on a Web site to document and promote
this project and other projects they hope to inspire.
Fleisher said that he sees value just in neighbors coming
together. “People get to know each other. There’s an intensity
that people have about it, trying to paint in the lines,”
said Fleisher, gesturing at the mural. “Someone thought enough
to do this.”
loose ends this week-