Police and Fire Rescue on the Greenway

Most days commuting on the Greenway is pretty humdrum.  I see police cars patrolling the Greenway fairly regularly.  They are usually courteous enough to pull over until I pass, perhaps in tacit acknowledgment of the fact that their vehicle takes up the vast majority of the limited paved surface available.  I suppose it is better to have these police cars patrolling here than to have no security patrols at all, especially considering how segregated the path is from street traffic, and the fact that it passes through a few neighborhoods that are still rather “un-gentrified.”  Nevertheless, I’d much rather see the NYPD dispatch some cops on bicycles, or at worst on some light-duty scooters or motorcycles instead.

Occasionally there will actually be some sort of incident that requires significant police presence.  On one sunny afternoon on my way home last Summer I came across a police blockade that forced me to take a 15-minute detour through some pretty rough dirt paths in the adjacent parkland forest.  While it was very upsetting to have my way home obstructed with no clear detour, I try to console myself by imagining that they were helping some hapless cyclist who took the nearby hill a bit too quickly and lost control of his bike.

When a police van or fire truck comes careening down with sirens blazing, though, there is no choice but to simply get off the path and onto the grass until the vehicle passes. This morning, as I had to maneuver around such a fire truck, I was mildly annoyed but mostly worried that I’d find my path blocked further down.  As a second truck passed, I thought, “hmm, must be something pretty serious.”  After the third truck passed, followed close behind by another 3, I knew something was up, and so I stopped to check out all the commotion.

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Early word on the street was that a car had fallen off the George Washington Bridge.  That would certainly explain all the police and fire rescue trucks, as well as the helicopters circling overhead, but it also seemed rather unlikely.  Besides, a quick look at the bridge showed no apparent structural damage, and for a car to make it off the heavily-protected GWB, it would have had to cause some significant damage.

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Later on, some quick googling when I got to the office revealed that it was actually a suicide jumper, apparently an all-too-common occurrence on NY’s various bridges.

Since the jumper made the jump close to the NJ shore, the real question on my mind is what exactly the half dozen or so police and fire trucks massed along the Greenway thought they would do?  Did they think the jumper was actually trying to swim to Manhattan?  Were they contemplating jumping in and swimming most of the way across the Hudson to NJ to recover the body?  There were, in any case, plenty of helicopters and boats swirling in the area that were far more capable of engaging in any sort of rescue.  Even if they were contemplating a swim, I still don’t understand why more than a single truck is warranted, at least until the helicopters and boats report back on the man’s condition (the body was ultimately recovered by a FDNY boat).

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