The Closure of Beth Israel—It’s Our Fight Now!
By Arthur Z. Schwartz
We, as a community, are being rolled over by the almighty dollar. Even the West Village, which has become one of the wealthiest communities in the country, cannot take on the desire to cash in on NYC real estate, even at the cost of our health care.
Here is a self-description of Beth Israel Hospital:
Mount Sinai Beth Israel is an 856-bed, full-service, tertiary teaching hospital in New York City. Originally dedicated to serving immigrant Jews living in the tenement slums of the Lower East Side, it was founded at the turn of the 20th century. Now it serves the diverse population of lower Manhattan including Manhattan’s lower east side, Chinatown, Gramercy, West Village, Chelsea, as well as many neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
The main hospital building is known as the Petrie Division, located at First Avenue and 16th Street facing Stuyvesant Square.
The hospital recruited specialists to expand services in heart disease, cancer, neurology, and orthopaedics. Other medical specialties include gastrointestinal disease, chemical dependency, psychiatric disorders, pain management and palliative care, and HIV/AIDS research and treatment. The hospital also has significantly advanced its commitment to community-based ambulatory care and expanding patient access to primary and specialty care. Mount Sinai Beth Israel has one of the nation’s largest networks of methadone treatment programs.
Mount Sinai Beth Israel is a member of the Mount Sinai Health System, a nonprofit health system formed by the merger of Continuum Health Partners and The Mount Sinai Medical Center in September 2013.
856 beds is a lot of beds. And the communities it serves are quite diverse. My son Jacob was born there, and I recall the labor and delivery area as an amazing microcosm of New York—women yelling in English, Spanish, Yiddish, Chinese. Since the closure of St. Vincent’s, it is the closest Emergency Room to the West Village, and the last semblance of a full-service hospital anywhere from the Hudson River to the East River, between 30th Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.
New Yorkers must be able to get the right care they need at the right time. Major decisions about the future of hospitals have been happening in this City for the past decade, too often based on no plan whatsoever and without a larger strategy in place, and that has to end. While Mt. Sinai says that its decisions about selling the entire Beth Israel Campus between 16th and 19th Street is driven by a desire to “improve” the services it delivers, it announced its plans without being part of a plan which addressed Lower Manhattan’s health care needs. It is clear that Mt. Sinai should not be allowed to do what it plans, unless it uses a large portion of the $500 million it plans to make (probably an understatement), to address the hospital needs of lower Manhattan. I have two proposals, though I am not an expert:
a) use some of the funds to help expand the services at Bellevue, which though recently renovated, is bursting at its seams; b) build the new hospital that Mt. Sinai wants to build on the West Side, serving the Chelsea and West/Central Village community that St Vincent’s used to serve. My first choice would be for them to partner with Northwell Health and build something right above the fancy urgent care center across the street from the old St Vincent’s site. Or, with Government assistance they could build a small hospital on Pier 40. Or, as is suggested elsewhere in this issue, a hospital could be included in the new development at the St John’s terminal, a proposal currently under ULURP review.
Our political leaders, save a brief comment by Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Dan Garodnick, have been largely silent. I was present at a forum where Assembly member Glick (who I am running against in the September 13th Democratic Primary), when asked about Beth Israel, said “It’s not in my district”. Fact is, there is not a single hospital left in our entire Assembly District. That is an abomination.
The Political Leaders should be making a lot of noise right now, threatening all sorts of actions to prevent this money grab by Mt. Sinai (a money grab which could destroy Bellevue to its north, which is already over capacity). And I am not talking about lawsuits, although given the neighborhoods served, one addressed to the dwindling resources for the needy (the few who are left in Lower Manhattan) might be appropriate.
The kind of campaign I am talking about is suggested by some of the most successful labor campaigns of the late 20th Century: boycotts aimed at the principal businesses of Board Members. Look at some of the Board members of Mt. Sinai Hospital: John Hess of the Hess Corporation, Jeff Blau of Related, Arthur Sulzberger of the Times, James Tisch of the Loews Corporation, Fred Nathan of the Law Firm Kelley, Drye and Warren, Eric Lane and Richard Friedman of Goldman Sachs. Just think of the impact of a Times boycott, or pickets outside the offices and court appearances of Kelley Drye; or picketing some of the Related sales offices, or maybe even Jeff Blau’s condo. (You can bet that Related will grab up some of the prime properties Mt. Sinai wants to sell.)
I’m waiting, fellow politicians. Do I have some takers? Let’s assert some public control over health care.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village and a candidate for the Assembly in the 66th Assembly District.
Where Have All the Politicians Gone?
The Closure of Beth Israel—It’s Our Fight Now!