Ambulance Station Under the High Line Will Move to W. 29th St.

Community Board 4 has long advocated for the unenclosed EMS station under the High Line on W. 23rd St. to be relocated. | Photo by Scott Stiffler

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | An ambulance station that has been located under the High Line for nearly seven years has finally found a permanent home.

Emergency Medical Services station number 7 will relocate from W. 23rd St. (btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.) to a development at 601 W. 29th St. (at 11th Ave.) as part of a deal that involved many players.

“This is truly a win-win for the community,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose District 3 area of coverage includes Chelsea, said in an emailed statement.

The unenclosed facility was placed under the High Line in November 2011 as a temporary solution to help provide the West Side with medical services after the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital in 2010.

At that time, the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) — whose auspices the station is under — “were scrambling to find a location,” Christine Berthet, then the chair of Community Board 4 (CB4) and a current member, told Chelsea Now in 2015.

The open ambulance station caused quality of life concerns for some nearby residents, including at London Terrace, as there was noise from the sirens and fumes from the trucks.

The community board advocated for years for a new location for the facility, supporting its move to W. 29th St., part of a development site.

The site, known as block 675, encompasses W. 29th and W. 30th Sts. (btw. 11th & 12th Aves.), and includes a “Mobil gas station, a center of operations for the artist Jeff Koons, a two-story [city’s Department of Sanitation] office/worker’s lounge, and a Port Authority easement,” according to a May report from the city’s Department of City Planning (DCP).

Douglaston Development, a real estate development company, eyed the site for a tower, and ultimately purchased air rights — along with Lalezarian Properties, who will develop 606 W. 30th St. — from the Hudson River Park Trust for $52 million, Crain’s reported in June when City Council approved the sale and rezoning.

Douglaston paid $37 million for the rights, according to Senior Vice President of Land Use and Public Policy Tom Corsillo, with the public relations firm Marino, which represents Douglaston.

(CB4 had asked for a review of the air rights’ price. The DCP did not respond to a question whether a review had taken place.)

Douglaston’s project will include up to 990 residential units, of which up to 248 will be affordable, Corsillo said in an email. The tower is slated to “rise 695 feet to the mechanical roof,” and also will include 15,000 square feet for retail, New York YIMBY reported.

The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) station is slated to be around 18,500 square feet “of enclosed area for cleaning and restocking ambulances, as well as office and locker space for employees,” and “would be located in a one-story wing with a mezzanine along West 29th Street at the western end of the development site,” according to the DCP report.

Corsillo said the residential building is expected to be complete in 2022, but did not respond to a follow-up question if that included the ambulance station.

CB4 Chairperson Burt Lazarin said the board, along with Johnson, helped identify and negotiate for the station’s permanent home at 601 W. 29th St.

“This was the result of the community, an elected representative, a private developer, and the city working together to resolve a longstanding issue,” Lazarin said in an emailed statement.

Inge Ivchenko, president of the London Terrace Tenants Association, said it was mixed when it came to noise complaints from residents.

“The ones right on 23rd Street — a lot more of them were bothered by the noise,” she said in a phone interview. “The apartments that are on the opposite side… facing the courtyard, they didn’t hear anything from 23rd St.”

There were complaints about the fumes from the ambulances, said Ivchenko, who is also co-chairperson of CB4’s Arts, Culture, Education, and Street Life Committee.

The ambulance station will be located at 601 W. 29th St., which is slated to become a residential tower. | Photo by Scott Stiffler

Johnson said that important facilities like the ambulance stations “perform an indispensable service, but every effort must be made to ensure they are properly [sited].”

Finding a new station was a big challenge, he noted.

“Working [with] FDNY EMS, Community Board 4 and other stakeholders, we were able to identify a new location that will meet the needs of our first responders with much less disruption to the community,” Johnson said.

Jacqueline S. Gold, a spokesperson for DCAS, said, “This administration has been committed to finding a new location for this EMS station and are happy to partner with FDNY to develop one that will better serve the growing needs of the Chelsea community.”

When asked why finding a new location took so long, Gold said that with increased development around the High Line and Hudson Yards, finding a site large enough for the station was difficult.

The city, which leases the space for the current location on W. 23rd St., will give that up once the station moves and has no future plans for that site, Gold said in an email.

The FDNY did not respond to requests for comment. The DCP provided reports on the development site, but did not respond to questions.

Ivchenko, of London Terrace, said, “I think people will be happy that the station is moving and it will help to keep things quieter.”

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