By Katy GAgNON
In a response to dwindling donations and a drop in volunteers, the Bayside Volunteer Ambulance Corps has sold a portion of its property on 42nd Avenue to a real estate business and later leveled the building that housed the organization for nearly 50 years.
Money from the roughly $1.7 million sale made last month will fund the construction of a new building for the corps and help cover future operation costs, said Joe Vaccaro, the ambulance corps vice president.
"We are rebuilding. We are not closed," reads the sign outside the walled-off construction site in Bayside. The roughly 50-year-old building was razed last week.
Construction on the new building should be completed within the next eight to 12 months, Vaccaro said, and in the meantime, the ambulance corps is operating out of office space above Laundry Land on 42nd Avenue.
The new building will be a quarter of the size, but will include a room for CPR classes, a room for crew members, a kitchen, a bathroom and a garage to house two ambulances, Vaccaro said.
The ambulance corps and the real estate business will be in separate but adjoined buildings, Vaccaro said.
Other ambulance corps in the borough have made similar changes and rebuilt, Vaccaro said, adding that the Flushing Community Volunteer Ambulance recently opened a new building.
The sale and rebuild was needed in Bayside to confront a decrease in volunteers and donations.
When Vaccarro, who works as a real estate broker, started at the corps 13 years ago, there were 87 active members, but today there are 26 active members, he said.
Meanwhile, donations have dropped by 75 percent to 85 percent, Vaccaro said.
"The community changes and the people who used to have time to volunteer and donate, now they're working three jobs to support their families," he said.
The Bayside ambulance corps was founded in 1955 by Arthur Meier, who called upon civic, fraternal and religious organizations in the community for support.
The corps' first ambulance was a 1948 Buick hearse donated by a man named Frank Hatton.
This was decades before area hospitals started to provide ambulance services, Vaccarro said.
"All ambulance corps were the original system," he said.
Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.