About us

Rosendo Velez
Critical Response Medical Service Chief of Operations
CoFounder, Emergency Services Respite Center

CRMS Chief of Operations Rosendo (Rosey) Velez has 15 years as a medical first responder. From the first time he pulled ambulance duty in 1988 through the clean-up effort at the World Trade Center, Velez has been consumed with helping those in need and training others for their roles in emergency situations. In addition, he has assumed leadership roles in various high profile events, serving as the EMS Incident Commander for a hostage situation at a restaurant in New York, the supervisor for EMS medical support for the Papal Visit in 1995 and EMT Coordinator for the NYC Marathon for two years.

Since his appointment to the New York Critical Response Medical Service, Velez has supervised and participated in numerous multi-department preparedness exercises, building his knowledge in biological and chemical incident response, plane crashes, biological/chemical terrorism, bombings and incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.

As prepared as he is, nothing he had ever seen or done made September 11, 2001 any easier. While heading home to Queens after the nightshift in Manhattan, Velez was flagged down by a New York City police officer who told him about the tragedy unfolding at the World Trade Center. He immediately reported to the nearest battalion, which happened to be FDNY Battalion 49, and from there he began his grim duty.

For the next 30 days, he and his colleagues never left the site as they continued to dig for their fallen comrades amid the rubble and treat injuries to their fellow rescue workers. They slept as they could, catching naps on city sidewalks. For the next two months, he served as the Triage Commander at the Greenwich/Murray Street Station at the site of the disaster. Rosey Velez lost 23 close friends and colleagues that day, many of whom were his former emergency medical students.

In November, 2001, he was named Director of Security for the Ground Zero Relief Organization, a position he held until clean-up efforts at Ground Zero came to an end in May, 2002. Most recently, he was promoted from Captain to Chief of Operations with the New York Critical Response Medical Service and was one of five co-founders of the New York City EMS Association. The recipient of numerous awards from the NYPD, the New York City EMS and the military, Velez has appeared on CNN, ABC, WWOR, FOX, UPNQ, Armed Forces TV and HBO.

Chief Velez is married to Maria Velez, and they have two daughters, Marina and Myra.


George W. Contreras, MPH, MS
Director – Health Research Training
Coordinator – Emergency Preparedness Training
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Bureau of Public Health Training
Co-Founder, Emergency Services Respite Center

George Contreras has a background in public health and emergency services that makes him uniquely qualified to work on the creation of a respite center. His experience was gained at facilities such as the New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York Presbyterian Hospital, NYU Downtown Hospital, Lenox Hill Hospital and St. Clare’s Hospital where he served as a paramedic until being named Director, Emergency Medical Services in 2000.

Contreras’ has combined education with both first hand and managerial experience in emergency medical services and holds a Master of Public Health degree from Hunter College in the City of New York and a Master of Science degree (with honors) in Health Services Administration from Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. Today, in addition to his fulltime position as Director – Health Research Training and Coordinator – Emergency Preparedness Training at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Bureau of Public Training, Contreras also continues to work as a NYC paramedic at NYU Downtown Hospital.

On September 11, 2001, Contreras responded to the South Tower of the World Trade Center and was in the lobby when the second plane struck at 9:05 a.m. His knowledge of that day is intensely personal, and his experience in mental health gave him some sense of what the future would hold for many of the uniformed personnel who responded to this monumental tragedy. Since that day, he has sought out the heroes to urge that they find someone who can listen and help. The Emergency Services Respite Center is the answer to a need that Contreras feels is not only present, but that is growing among the men and women of the uniformed services.