Belvadere Castle in the 1970's

Belvadere Castle in the 1970's

A desperate need

In 1975, a group of regular park-goers realized that there was a specific need for emergency medical assistance within Central Park. They were concerned about the fact that many New York City ambulance crews had insufficient knowledge of Park geography. New York’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system was already stretched to the limit, often resulting in long waits (45 to 90 minutes) for an ambulance to arrive at the scene of an injury in the Park. They decided Central Park needed its own emergency medical service with Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) who had an intimate knowledge of the Park and its surrounding areas. These concerned New Yorkers took their idea to the Central Park Precinct Community Council and with the council’s sponsorship, formed the “Central Park Medical Rescue Squad.”

Members of the Central Park Medical Rescue Squad in 1975 Current CPMU members Rafael Castellanos left and David Cummings second from left

Members of the Central Park Medical Rescue Squad in 1975
Current CPMU members Rafael Castellanos left and David Cummings second from left

Humble Beginnings 

The Central Park Medical Rescue Squad was primarily a first response unit that consisted of approximately twenty volunteers, a few personal bicycles and a retrofitted Ford van used to transport crews and equipment. Later a stretcher was added to the van to allow for transport of patients when city EMS was not available. In 1976, the Central Park Medical Rescue Squad purchased a used type II ambulance from Lenox Hill Hospital. This allowed them to become a full fledged, transporting emergency medical unit. In 1979, the rescue squad incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation and was renamed the “Central Park Medical Unit.”

Increasing demand

Chase Manhattan Bank donated a new Type II ambulance in 1983 which was replaced in 1993 by a larger, Horton Type III ambulance donated by Pfizer Corporation and American Home Products. In 1995, a permanent First Aid Station was established at the Wollman Skating Rink in the south end of the park. CPMU leased and then purchased a second Horton Type III ambulance in 1996 to meet the increasing need for emergency medical services resulting from the rise in popularity of in-line skating, ice skating and more frequent special events held in Central Park.

Bus 4

Bus 4

Major disaster responses

CPMU has responded to every major disaster to strike NYC over the last 35 years. From 9/11 to Hurricane Sandy CPMU has always been there for NY. Help make sure we always be. Consider donating today. 

Learn more about CPMU's major disaster responses.

Hurricane Sandy 

Hurricane Sandy 


CPMU Today

CPMU now boasts a fleet of four state of the art custom ambulances, an all terrain vehicle, an emergency response fly car, and a fleet of emergency response bikes. Our staff of volunteers consists of more than 150 diverse and compassionate volunteers whose backgrounds range from professional EMTs, paramedics, nurses and doctors to business executives, attorneys and active and retired law enforcement personnel, to name a few. CPMU has no paid staff. Our volunteer members have an intensive and expert knowledge of Central Park ’s geography which allows us to provide swift and expert care in Central Park with one of the fastest response times in New York State. We hope you and your family will never need our services, but if you do, isn’t it comforting to know that your fellow New Yorkers are there for you? Your donation of time or funds  help keep our service FREE to all Central Park visitors.