By CJ Rosen
This evening, I witnessed first-hand how the inability to lead, can literally lead to paralysis and maybe even death!
Walking home from Maariv, my son and I observed the massive gridlock that always ensues after every Labor Day parade passing through in Crown Heights.
You know the scene. Bumper to bumper traffic throughout our neighborhood comprising all the guests who spent a long day celebrating labor day, now trying to get back home.
As we approached the heavily armed and barricaded intersection of Kingston and Union, a Hatzalah ambulance sounded its glaring siren as it attempted to make its way through the gridlock.
(The NYPD were not allowing cars to proceed towards Eastern Parkway in order to facilitate the Sanitation cleanup on the Parkway.)
We estimated that the ambulance was but a few car lengths from the intersection, which was closed and diverting all traffic (which was at a standstill) on to Union Street.
About 10 police officers stood by passively as the ambulance amplified its sirens.
First, the familiar alarm-like trill, then a faster beat and finally a “Fog horn” or “Ship horn” sound. All the while, the officers standing guard at the barricade on Kingston Ave, appeared disinterested in the wailing noise the ambulance was emitting.
After about 2 minutes of this, I approached the only officer wearing a white shirt who was in the middle of the group, looked at his name tag which read “Officer Pullzzaro” and asked “Officer, are you in charge here”?
He abruptly said “No” and looked away.
I could have walked away, but I was concerned.
So, I attempted to engage Officer Pullzzaro and asked “Please open the barricade to allow 3 cars to go through so the ambulance could pass.”
He replied “No”.
I continued to engage him and said, “This might be a case of life and death. You have an ambulance blaring its siren and you have the power to allow it to pass. Please do so.”
I can only assume that Officer Pullzzaro froze and was unable to step up to the plate and make the right call. Perhaps he was afraid of breaching protocol, and allowing a few cars to park on the side. However, what concerned me was this officer’s insensitivity and inability to show empathy especially when approached and asked to facilitate a blaring ambulance’s passage.
The situation began to get heated. A few people started shouting at poor Officer Pullzzaro. Yet he remained, calm and cool. It appeared that he was unfazed by the ambulance, motorists honking and now what seemed to be an angry mob of Chassidic men yelling something like: “Officer Pullzzaro tear down that barricade.”
As the crowd began to “swell”, another officer (with a white shirt) briskly walked up to intersection. I regret that I missed his name. I asked him “Officer, could you please open this barricade to let the ambulance through.”
With a warm smile, he said “Yes”, and directed Pullzzaro et al to let it through. He was the polar opposite of Officer Pullzzaro. As soon as he spoke the others sprung into action and briskly opened the barricade and began waving cars out of the way.
In my very limited interaction with the NYPD this evening, I learned two things.
First, it’s important to stand up for what you believe in, even if that means speaking directly to a police officer who is unwilling to act. As long as you are respectful, it’s ok to be direct and engaging.
Second, for every disinterested, uncaring, unable to lead officer, there is one that exudes kindness, professionalism and the ability to lead and take charge during a crisis.