NYC's 911 response time under scrutiny after emergency at Christine Quinn event

Holly Bailey
National Correspondent
Mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn attends to a woman who fainted at her news conference (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn came to Williamsburg on Tuesday to hold a news conference about the debate over where New York City stores its trash. But the event turned into a real-life examination of the city’s 911 response times when a young woman fainted and an ambulance didn’t show up for more than a half hour.

The woman, an 18-year-old City Council intern who turned out for Quinn’s outdoor press conference, passed out and hit her head on the sidewalk just after 11:45 a.m. — about 30 minutes into Quinn’s event.

Quinn, who is speaker of the City Council, rushed to her side while her staff and reporters on the scene called 911. For several minutes, the woman drifted in and out of consciousness, telling Quinn and others attending to her that she wasn’t sure where she was. Officials blamed the intense heat. At the time of the accident, it was already 93 degrees.

After several minutes, a member of Quinn’s security detail, who is also an EMT, grabbed his emergency supplies and began attending to the victim with ice packs and oxygen.

“You’re going to be OK,” Quinn told the woman, who was laid out on a city sidewalk on Metropolitan Avenue, a busy commercial stretch. “They will be here soon.”

But the ambulance still didn’t come — and as the minutes ticked by, Quinn grew visibly irritated. At one point, she excused herself and borrowed a staffer’s cell phone and walked a half a block down the street away from reporters and other bystanders to make a call. She later said she called Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

A moment later, at 12:20 p.m. — more than half an hour after the first 911 call was made — a fire truck showed up. About two minutes later, an ambulance from Hatzolah, a private ambulance service that primarily serves the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in south Williamsburg, arrived and transported the victim to nearby Woodhull Hospital. At 12:26 p.m., a New York City ambulance arrived at the scene — just as the other ambulance was rolling away.

“It just took a half an hour for an ambulance to get to a place where a young girl had fainted and was lying on the street in sweltering heat, where there were four TV cameras, at least, the speaker of the City Council and a council member,” Quinn angrily told reporters after the victim had been taken away. “It raises great questions about how long it takes an ambulance to get anywhere else where there aren’t television and aren’t two elected officials. It’s inexcusable.”

“While we were there… my office was calling everyone. I was making telephone calls,” she added. “I don’t know what in God’s name could have taken so long to get this ambulance to help this young girl, but you can rest assured I am going to find out because it’s just not acceptable.”

The event comes after complaints that the city’s new 911 system has been marked with dangerous delays. Last week, the family of a 4-year-old girl who died after being struck by a hit-and-run driver sued the city over its slow response time to the accident.