By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
As Hurricane Ida deluged Flushing Meadow Park, Local 983 Urban Park Rangers and City Seasonal Aides fought the cold, driving rains to lead U.S. Open fans to safety.
“These brave members went above and beyond. They made outstanding rescues of people stranded in one of the worst storms on record,” said Joe Puleo, Local 983 President.
On Sept. 1, remnants of Ida flooded swaths of New York City and claimed 13 lives.
“The waters rose quickly and pooled four-feet deep in some areas. When people left the stadium to get to their cars, it was pandemonium,” said UPR Tyler St. Cyr.
Ida’s floodwaters forced the stadium to cancel its shuttle buses. The Parks Department rangers drove special vehicles to reach stranded motorists. St. Cyr said, “Sergeant Tom Brown pulled a boy and his dad through the window of their stalled SUV. The road was a river.”
“Officers Fan and Virgil helped a man in his 70s. He had hypothermia and was having panic attacks,” said St. Cyr. “They carried him to safety and kept him warm until the EMTs arrived.”
The Urban Parks Rangers also helped direct chaotic crowds to the Willets Point, Long Island Railroad station. St. Cyr said, “One emergency train came that night to evacuate people from the stadium.”
The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is located in Flushing Meadows, a 1,400-acre public park in Corona, Queens. The U.S. Tennis Association matches attract international audiences to the Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong indoor stadiums. The Parks Department assigned a small group of 15 UPRs and CSAs to work double shifts during the U.S. Open.
“The day Ida hit we worked from 6:30 a.m. until 5 a.m. the next day,” said St. Cyr. “We were cold and wet but our commitment to protect lives– and our adrenaline– drove us to keep on working through the storm. Officers Crimi and Mallon made sure the workers in our crew were safe. Everyone worked together. We did what we had to do. We were back at work 6:30 a.m. the following day.”