By Carlotta Mohamed
It was a remarkable reunion for around 100 retired and current New York City Fire Department officials at the recent red-ribbon-cutting ceremony, marking the rededication of the renovated EMS Museum at Fort Totten, which celebrates New York City’s paramedics and emergency medical service technicians.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, along with emergency medical service officers, used gold scissors to cut the red ribbon last Friday, reopening the EMS Museum located at Fort Totten in Bayside. The museum dates back to New York City’s pre-hospital care in 1869, with horse-drawn carriages carrying patients to the hospital to the advancement of motorized vehicles today providing 24-hour service care.
“Those who commit themselves to this noble career care for so many at their darkest and most vulnerable moments,” said Nigro. “This museum celebrates all of them for their hard work and it recognizes pioneers as well.”
“With each class of new EMTs and paramedics that come through this academy we continue to grow stronger, and as they walk these halls they will come here and learn about all those who came before them,” Nigro further added.
The idea of preserving the history of the EMTs and paramedics in New York City was spearheaded by FDNY Division Chief of EMS James P. Martin and Capt. Jack Quigley of the EMS Bureau of Training Academy at Fort Totten.
During National EMS Week (May 20-26), the museum will be open to the public for the first time from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The museum was established in 1992 by Martin and Quigley, but was closed in 2013 for renovations and expansion of the academy, which now includes upgraded computers, new monitors, and audio visual components in all classrooms for its students and staff.
Martin, who was a designer and paramedic, retired in 2010. He researched the history of the ambulance service and designed the concept on paper, while Quigley managed the construction of the 400-square-foot museum from the ground up.
“A lot of people don’t realize the EMS has a history just like the Police Department and Fire Department. We have our own history as well,” said Quigley. “It’s great to see where we came from and how things have evolved.”
During the period of construction, Martin and Quigley were already planning for the reopening. Martin said we “always knew the museum would come back, but were unsure of the shape.”
The museum, located on the first floor, includes artifacts such as uniforms, equipment, and a showing of advancement in technology since the 1800s. Visitors can expect to see display cases of EMS uniforms, medical equipment used over the years, radios, badges, and other artifacts utilized throughout the last century.
According to Martin, many of the artifacts were donated by retired EMS workers who saved the items for their personal collections but thought it would be better to share them with everyone else.
Michael Greco, vice president of Local 2507 — the union for Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Inspectors — has been a paramedic in the FDNY for seven years. Greco said being a paramedic is one of the greatest experiences in his life.
“This is a job where you don’t feel like you’re working, you’re helping the city of New York,” said Greco. “You get to people on their worse days, and you get to bring a little bit of relief. Someone says a prayer, and you’re the prayer that comes to answer.”
According to James Leonard, chief of department, “it’s important to remember the past to move forward, and for one to have an understanding of where they came from, to know where they are, and where they’re going to be.”
He added, “Twenty years ago we merged into the best Fire Department in the world with the best EMTs, paramedics and firefighters. Our goal is about treating individual people, saving lives, and serving the public.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha