Pier 40 Has Been Offered to Locate the New West Village Hospital (You need to say you want it!)
By George Capsis
“I am not going to support something which is not going to happen,” were the angry words that came at the end of an increasingly tense phone conversation with our only good local politician. This response followed when I asked that we move the proposed 70-bed Mount Sinai Hospital to the St. John’s Terminal site rather than 13th Street and 2nd Avenue.
After they are elected, local politicians quickly learn what they can’t do and go with the flow and get re-elected and re-elected, and re-elected.
At one of the last birthday parties for Ed Koch in his apartment on 5th Avenue, I confronted Dick Gottfried who had just been playfully teased for being the youngest person ever elected to the New York State Assembly. I asked him, as the Chairman of the Committee on Health, why he didn’t save St. Vincent’s. He too became irritated and offered pretty much the same argument (what could I do).
“Don’t tell Brad Hoylman (who was backing frontrunner Christine Quinn) that de Blasio is speaking opposite St. Vincent’s,” demanded the campaign manager for Bill de Blasio when they invited me to that event. But, when I finally reached the site opposite the Rudin-chewed corpse of St. Vincent’s after a depressing trip back from the Bronx, in which I visited my dying wife, I saw newly-elevated Brad Hoylman and the former State Senator Tom Duane poised to speak before a battery of cameras; they were framed in protest signs that accused them of losing St. Vincent’s.
My last encounter with Duane was at a “press conference” at his office as he resigned. When I got up to ask why he, also Chairman of the Committee on Health, had not saved St. Vincent’s, a short “assistant” jumped up and repeated, “Conference over, conference over.”
And there he was—Tom Duane speaking before an eviscerated hospital about his achievements and saying that we should vote for another zero in the non-fight to save that hospital. Christine Quinn and I became enraged and demanded, with a clenched fist, that he “Get out of here, get out of here.” This was caught by every news camera in New York (I even made the Greek papers).
That’s over now, and our present politicians might argue with the exploding cost of health care and with the millions of visits to the emergency room by people who simply do not pay (ever). But there is no solution and we will keep losing hospitals; we have lost 20 in 16 years and City hospitals are billions in debt.
The history of important government action in this Country is that it has to get very, very bad before a solution is offered and enacted.
I remember growing up on the Upper West Side in the 1930s when men lived in cardboard shanties under the 125th Street viaduct. At that time, they invented the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and hired starving artists to paint a mural in the auditorium of P.S. 192, which took much longer to paint than the Sistine Chapel.
I will not be alive when the government discovers a way to control the cost of medical services (certainly not under Trump). But I have one last fight, right now, right here.
When Mount Sinai discovered that they were losing $80 million a year trying to run Beth Israel, and that in four years the loss amount would be $500 million, they decided to sell Beth Israel to a Rudin-like developer for $500 million and have him build luxury condos.
But wait! The Rudin PR firm offers that we at Mount Sinai are good guys and that we will build a new hospital on our parking lot at 13th Street and 2nd Avenue. True, instead of having over 830 beds, as does the present Beth Israel, it will only have 70. But we offer a rendering with dotted lines over the roof to suggest that we could build more if the patients don’t mind the noise and fumes. The statement that they will build more beds is a lie and we should not trust people who lie.
Doctor Kaufman, who was the head physician at St. Vincent’s, cautioned me, “We need here in the West Village a 300-bed full-service hospital, and it has to be a Trauma I Emergency Room so that when you get that heart attack, your last memory is not traveling in a hard bumpy ambulance to Bellevue.”
I am proposing that the Mount Sinai/Beth Israel 2nd Avenue Parking Lot Hospital be built along the north side of Pier 40 at West Houston Street. I assume that Dr. Davis of Mount Sinai selected the 13th Street parking lot because they owned it
We, the citizens of New York, own Pier 40. According to the charter, it was supposed to be leased to a developer to finance the operation of the park. They had two expensive Requests For Proposals and selected nobody. So, bang, there it sits—15 acres of prime waterfront property being used to park cars and provide an AstroTurf field for local private schools.
There are certain advantages to building a hospital on a Hudson River pier. I propose that the furthest building at the end of the pier be mostly residential so that the new hospital can attract world-renowned physicians by offering them apartments with spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and the George Washington Bridge. It can also have a heliport and even a private dock to receive patients the next time a pilot decides to crash land in the Hudson.
What is really important is that this hospital can be ours. We here in the West Village we can give it a name and make it ours.
The startling hand of fate stepped in when I found myself talking to Nicole Farris, perhaps one of the most accomplished fundraisers in America. She offered to head the West Village Fund to invite donations to help build and operate this new hospital (see her request on page 11 of this issue).
If you have read this far, you probably want to return a hospital to the West Village and you may agree that we cannot wait for the politicians. We must do it ourselves.
This is that one rare time when you are asked to do something that you should. I want you to visit westviewnews.org and vote for a hospital on Pier 40.