The TV camera caught the look of sudden concern on the face of Christine Quinn as one of her 18- year-old campaign workers collapsed in the heat.

Quinn called 911 and waited and waited. Furious, she called Ray Kelly, yet still, nobody arrived, prompting a knowledgeable Brooklynite to call the local Jewish ambulance service Hatzolah and they arrived in four minutes. Quinn had a new campaign issue, “911 is slow.”

The readers of WestView seem to know this since we continually receive emails with delay case histories and even accounts of victims dying on the way to the ER. The Quinn incident made news on the TV and in print. However, the dozens – perhaps hundreds – of heart attack victims that sustain permanent heart and brain damage and even die in the ambulance seeking a distant emergency room will never be reported because nobody is counting.

No one will do the accounting because the state, stressed by the recession and having to spend $2 to $3 billion a year to keep the hospitals serving the uninsured and poor, have invested in the convenient theory that we have too many beds, too many hospitals, and closing the increasing number of bankrupt ones will mean that the bigger richer ones will pick up the slack and we will have a more efficient, cost effective system.

Bloomberg summed it up saying, “Survival of the fittest.”

Too many hospital beds is one thing. Not enough emergency rooms that can treat heart attacks and strokes is quite another.

In this issue, we include a map showing the location of the trauma one emergency rooms (these are the ones that can open a clogged artery to the heart and save your life) and look, they are all along the East River and way up town. Although we have the impression the recession is easing, they are still closing hospitals; this time it is the Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn.

However, something new has happened.

When St. Vincent’s was going under, I could not understand why not one of our local politicians stood up in front of tanks to say, “You will close this hospital over my dead political body.” Towards the end I thought, “Wait, wait I will call the Public Advocate, this is his job.” I had to think who the Public Advocate was and then remembered it was Bill de Blasio. I called his office and heard a voice and nothing more. I called again a couple of times and never spoke to anybody who even smelled of authority and St. Vincent’s was gone.

When I finally did meet Bill de Blasio, when we interviewed him for WestView, I repeated the zero response from his office. He looked serious and said he would look into it. Now, we see him on TV arrested while fighting to keep Long Island College Hospital which is bereft of patients open for another month. If he had done this while St. Vincent’s was still open, we just might have saved it.

I got to know de Blasio during my intense one-hour session in which I found myself haranguing him to restore a hospital to the West Side. Arthur Schwartz made the telling point that it was a city-wide problem not just securing a replacement for St. Vincent’s. De Blasio seized on that to extricate himself making me a campaign promise (If elected I will build a new hospital to replace St. Vincent’s).

I had to accept the justice of this position. We have an unbelievably lousy system for paying for health care – sock the insured and Medicare patients to pay for the derelicts who use the emergency room to sleep off a drunk (I actually witnessed this at St. Vincent’s). I could fill the pages of WestView each month with stories of $7 aspirins and wheelchairs that are never used but Medicare pays for, but I still want to replace our hospital of 161 years.

Recently, the real estate developer Steve Witkoff (he is doing 150 Charles Street ) offered $1 million to lubricate the donation wheels to ease money from his developer colleagues earning billions in the greatest real estate boom in the history of Manhattan (we have become the international capital for the super-rich).

It was hard for me to accept it, but if Kenneth Langone (Home Depot) can give $200 million to NYU and have that hospital named after him, I know there will be a competition among the new developer billionaires to have the new West Village Medical Center named after them – we have the money.

Oh wow – you have the money – what else do you need?

I needed a site and – just like that – it came.

For decades, the 92-year-old owner of the three block long St. John’s Terminal had been teasing developers into believing he was willing to sell and then, a few months ago, a division of Fortress Investment Group bought a controlling interest.

Why this is occult is that Mike Novogratz, the principal owner of Fortress, heads the Friends of Hudson River Park and is an aggressive defender of sports on Pier 40, which faces St. John’s Terminal.

It becomes even stranger.

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, having opposed Novogratz-backed plan to build condos on Pier 40 to save the park, and hence the sports on Pier 40, makes a deal with Assemblyman Dick Gottfried to sell the air rights to any property owner one block deep from the West Side Highway (they snuck the new law in in the wee hours of dawn).

So, now you can build condo towers on top of St. John’s Terminal – who knows, perhaps 75 stories high – and use that income to build and maintain a world class hospital.

Perfect right?

Well not quite, Mike Novogratz won’t talk to me. We started a conversation and were cut off and now I can’t even talk to his secretary Kelly – even the temps are told to give me the run around. Yet wait, isn’t this familiar – here we have more than a chance to restore our hospital and our local politicians will not return a call.

This is election time, so those who are running are asking, “George, how can we help?” What I need is a meeting with Mike Novogratz. Not just with me, I am only a chronicler of events, but with people who know real estate like Steve Witkoff; he knows how to make a deal.

To make this happen, I am going back in time and I am going to ask the Public Advocate who just might be our new mayor to call Mike Novogratz to set up a meeting to accept whatever price he puts on the property and learn the reasons why he doesn’t want a hospital named after him.

I hope Bill can get past Kelly.

Leave a Reply