NEWARK, NJ — The many visitors who descend upon Newark's renowned Ironbound neighborhood on a weekend night to get a taste of the epicurean delights found inside the area's restaurants are happy to put up with the traffic jams that are commonplace in Down Neck's dense streetscape.
But in an emergency, trying to drive from Casa d'Paco on Warwick Street to Fernandes Steak House on Fleming Avenue could well be mission impossible. And for members of the Ironbound Ambulance Squad trying to get someone suffering through a medical crisis to nearby hospitals, deploying their lights and sirens is no guarantee that they will win a race between life and death.
The Ironbound Ambulance Squad (I.A.S.) has been navigating the narrow maze of the Ironbound's streets for nearly 70 years as they strive to save lives in one of Newark's most storied neighborhoods. Down Neck is the place where many of New Jersey's immigrants go to bed after a hard day's work, then wake up to go make their version of the American Dream real for themselves and their families.
But right now, the local life-saving crew is dealing with a practical and logistical nightmare. The I.A.S. is down to half strength after recently losing the operation of one of its two ambulances. The timing for this operational loss is especially bad, particularly considering that in the past two years alone, the squad has answered over 9,000 dispatch calls.
As a result, the I.A.S. is seeking the public's help to raise the funds needed to obtain a second Type II ambulance, specifically an FR Pioneer II Promaster Ambulance. This model ambulance has a narrow turn radius, a lower step height for loading and unloading, and a low clearance height, among other features. All of these aforementioned aspects are critical components for the best possible ambulance squad performance in the kind of dense, narrow-street urban landscape found in older East Coast cities and neighborhoods, such as Newark's Ironbound.
In the end, the funds the I.A.S. hopes to raise will pay for something priceless: a faster response time to residents in the area.
The squad receives no federal or municipal funding for its operation. Throughout the years, the I.A.S. has been a fully self-sufficient entity and has evolved into a vital public safety organization.
I.A.S. President Manny Oliveira spoke to the sense of mission that the more than 50 men and women who are active members of the squad feel about their work.
"Through personal commitment, determined brotherhood, productive charity work and our positive outreach programs, we, as an organization, have aided our community," Oliveira said. "Now, with the community's help, we hope to keep our persistent involvement and positive accomplishments going by obtaining the key equipment we need to do our job to the best of our ability."