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Death of a son prompts $1 million grant for new hospital

It was as if somebody were out there making things happen. I received a call on a Sunday from Steve Witkoff whom I had met briefly, maybe four years ago. He quickly began to tell me of the drug overdose death of his son. He was, as a father, obsessed and relived an agonizing withdrawal session. I told him of the death of my daughter, Ariadne, who suffered from manic depression and whose over-medication caused a heart attack; she called out to her mother just once.

Steve, who is now 58, is still the kid he was in the Bronx and despite his real estate fortune, still wanting to be a member of the gang. Now his new gang is us, here in the West Village. He will move into 150 Charles Street – “I want to be a great neighbor,” he said.

He was, understandably, consumed by his son’s death with thoughts perhaps of how he could have prevented it. I suggested a foundation and a drug clinic. I found myself saying, “I want an emergency room and you want a drug clinic, so why not put them together in a new hospital.” From this came his offer – a matching challenge grant of $1 million for a new state of the science West Village Hospital – and his plea that he be allowed to solicit funds from friends, colleagues, and now, I suspect, tenants.

Something or someone made me make an appointment for my wife’s fading hearing with a new doctor, Christopher Linstrom. As he treated her, he began, without prompting, to talk of the unnecessary loss of St. Vincent’s and mentioned Dr. David Kaufman who has led the coalition to restore a hospital. I listened, just listened and when he paused, I asked that he write me every word and he did the very next day (it was the story of the loss of a medical community – a medical family).

It pains me to look over four years of WestView and read words of rage and frustration at the lack of a single one of our local politicians who said, “No. You can’t not have a hospital after having one for 161 years and one that treated 60,000 patients a year in the emergency room.” This in addition to a Mayor who said, “Hey, it is the survival of the fittest – that’s business.” Furthermore, a State Medical Commissioner who turned down Mt. Sinai’s bid to take over in one phone call.

So, I look at the clutter of four years of words and the Rudin condos going up as fast as money can make it happen. Now the death of a young son has made a father say, “I want to build a hospital in my son’s name.”

Who out there made this happen?

I received a call on Friday from a young man who asked for Ariadne Capsis. She was my daughter who died years ago, years ago.

1 thought on “Somebody Out There Helped

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      Thanks, George, for this fine article. It is very moving. I’m very glad Mr. Witkoff has offered the matching grant. It’s going to get the ball rolling.

      As we can see from the comment that included a video objecting to Witkoff’s conversion of 150 Charles Street, nothing, I guess, is too simple. I think we need to find a way to relate the two issues–need for a hospital, and Witkoff’s offer, with his very objectionable plans for the 150 Charles Street conversion. That’s going to be difficult. I’m sure he misses his son terribly, but he is also a developer who doesn’t really, it appears, have the needs of the West Village at heart. This may be partly an offer with a second thought that this may ingratiate him with the community to make up for the building he’s planning to create. There’s going to be heavy community opposition to that.

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