Inside The NYPD Fleet

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Release date: 3/22/2019

Inside The NYPD Fleet
Donald Dunphy and Bill Romba

This is not the time and/or place for improvisation. The plans must be ready for whatever may come.

Nearly six years ago, New York City was hit by Superstorm Sandy’s sustained winds of 80 mph, tearing through homes and flooding subways and streets. In November, the lights were switched on for Rockefeller Center’s 75-foot Christmas tree, an annual draw for millions of visitors. On this morning, the cars are triple-parked and tractor trailers idle in the middle of the road, waiting for passage while backing up traffic in the process. Somewhere else, a crime is being committed.

The New York City Police Department, like any law enforcement entity, deals with these extremes each day, and its fleet must be at the ready throughout. This is a look into how they do it.

The People in Charge - It’s a half-hour ride from One Police Plaza in lower Manhattan to NYPD Fleet Central Repair Shop in Queens, on a bright but windy day. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway leads east toward I-278, but the conversation moves toward the logistics of the United Nations building, and what is required to keep traffic flowing and foreign officials safe. The detective assigned to bring NAFA staff to Central Repair Shop says, “Preparations
for U.N. sessions and events like them are pre-planned a year in advance. When one meeting is done, we’re already in the middle of working on the next.”

Later in the evening, NAFA Regular Member Robert Martinez, Deputy Commissioner for Support Services, verifies this. “We do table-top (exercises) for every imaginable contingency. We can’t be caught off guard, so the things people never really want to imagine, we need to think about these things to prepare for them.”

Martinez alludes to one of the City’s most-high-profile crises: 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. It haunts the halls of
both One Police Plaza and Central Repair Shop in Queens, where an image of the storm hangs on the wall of Scott Olexa’s office. Prior to his role as Fleet Services Division’s Commanding Officer, Olexa, a NAFA Regular Member, served as Deputy Inspector with the 100th Precinct in Rockaway Beach. He was there to see the storm’s worst and keeps a “before and after” picture close: An NYPD van speeds across Rockaway Beach while, in the background, monstrous waves bleed into a gray sky. Beneath this image is a second, picturing the same stretch of beach after
being decimated by Sandy.

Olexa reports to Director and NAFA Regular Member Vartan Khachadurian. Known affectionately to his staff as “Vart,” Khachadurian preps for an afternoon “FleetStat” session in Martinez’s Manhattan office with NAFA Members Olexa, Deputy Director James Korotki, Operations Supervisor Hassan Eldaly, and other officials.

The respect for Martinez is evident throughout the organization. Khachadurian noted that Martinez’s continual pursuit of better, more efficient vehicles was clearly seen with him championing the Hybrid Ford Fusion police responder. The NYPD currently has 156 of the vehicles on order with the expectation of them going into service in the spring of
2019. Martinez made his wishes known to Ford’s design team. “In nearly every respect, those cars are his; they’re like
his babies,” Khachadurian says.

Martinez is a self-professed motorhead who started from the literal bottom of fleet services by road-testing motorcycles.

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