Future uncertain for Woodhaven ambulance corps and its former headquarters

Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

Board members and residents voiced outrage during Saturday’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting over news that the embattled Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps has opted to sell its headquarters located at 78-15 Jamaica Ave.

“This has been a big topic for the community for over two years,” WRBA President Martin Colberg said. “We’ve been trying to do everything we can to help the corps. We’re concerned about what’s going to happen with that property, as well as what’s going to actually happen with the Volunteer Ambulance Corps.”

The Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps has been out of commission since 2013 following severe roof and structural damage stemming from the partial collapse of the adjacent building at 78-19 Jamaica Ave. during a storm. As a result, the corps and its tenant, the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center, were both forced to vacate the premises.

Attempts to force the collapsed building’s owner, George Kochabe, to repair the damage to the structures were futile. Despite repeated criticism from the community and civic leaders, a court granted Kochabe’s repeated requests for extensions, leaving both buildings uninhabitable and in a state of disrepair.

“The judge that handled this case was just the worst thing that could have happened to this community,” Colberg said.

An Oct. 28 tweet from Sergio Serrano, a real estate salesperson at Keller Williams Realty, advertised the Ambulance Corps headquarters for sale at an asking price of $999,999 with the disclaimer “all cash buyers only.” Local historical group Project Woodhaven responded with a tweet declaring it “shameful that NYC let this happen.”

Many residents expressed concerns over what type of building or business will now occupy the space vacated by the corps.

“Obviously it’s being sold to a developer,” Colberg said. “They’re going to knock down that entire block. What’s going to go there?”

Questions surrounding the sale of the building also include talk of a possible merger with another nearby organization, such as the Lindenwood Volunteer Ambulance Corps, but sources close to the group could neither confirm nor deny this.

“We’ve reached out to the Volunteer Ambulance Corps like we usually do and offered them an invitation to come and speak to the residents,” Colberg said. “Unfortunately, they’re going to have their own meeting today, so no one from the corps was able to make it.”

Colberg added that the corps asked WRBA to send them a list of questions regarding the sale of the property as well as the status of the organization, but after three attempts, he has yet to hear back from them.

“This is something that’s affecting our community,” he explained. “If a merger is going to happen, if that building is going to be sold, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. We want to make sure that we’re not just left behind.”