NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Traffic congestion can create an uphill battle for emergency responders in the city – taking up precious moments that could be used to help someone in need.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported Tuesday, city officials said they are working to address the problem.
When every second counts, emergency responders do not have time for traffic jams. But streets are more and more congested with more and more people visiting and moving into the city.
Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said the congestion is a serious problem.
“Traffic in New York City is becoming more and more of a challenge for New York City firefighters,” Cassidy said. “Response times matter when people’s lives hang in the balance.”
The de Blasio administration released a transportation study earlier this year, which showed traffic speed in the city has decreased 10 percent over the last two years.
Building construction and narrowed avenues with bike lanes have added to the slowdown.
Many first responders and regular drivers said further that avoiding potholes is also a big problem. Justin Carlo’s car ended up on a flatbed tow truck after landing on one.
“It slows down a lot of traffic,” Carlo said. “You hit a pothole, you get flats. It’s a bad commute.”
All of it makes for a difficult situation for firefighters on emergency runs.
“It delays us doing what we need to do,” Cassidy said. “There’s nowhere for these people to move to let a fire truck down the road. So our response times are dramatically slower than they should be.”
The average FDNY response time for structural fires was 4 minutes and 51 seconds in July of this year – 15 seconds slower than it was in July 2014 at 4 minutes and 36 seconds.
Earlier this month, Engine Company 236 was delayed answering a call after their fire truck hit a massive sinkhole. Lt. Brendan Connolly, riding onboard, broke vertebrae.
“What happened to this officer has happened many times,” Cassidy said. “It’s part of the challenge and the risk that we face.”
The city, responding to the firefighters’ unions’ concerns, said because safety comes first, the administration made an unprecedented commitment of $1.6 billion to resurface city roadways over the next 10 years.
“The administration knows it. They’re doing the best they can,” Cassidy said. “But it’s not getting easier — it’s getting harder.”
And of course, traffic congestion in New York City is a problem that is not going away anytime soon.
The city said the Department of Transportation issued more than 60,000 violations last year to companies doing street work without a permit or working before or beyond their allotted time. The violations often took away traffic lanes from public use.