‘Soft demo’ going on at former St. Vincent’s site

[media-credit name="Photos by Lincoln Anderson " align="aligncenter" width="600"][/media-credit]
Garbage trucks were being filled with interior demolition debris at the former St. Vincent’s last week.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  The day after Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced sweeping concessions on the Rudin plan at the St. Vincent’s site, work was going on at the former hospital to ready it for residential conversion — while, nearby, a solitary protester continued to make a stand for saving St. Vincent’s.

Last Thursday, three Mack “Loadmaster” trucks were parked in the openings in a large blue construction fence that now shrouds the bottom of the former hospital’s western side. Their hydraulic compactors grinding loudly, the trucks were being loaded with the innards of the former healthcare facility.

Wearing a hard hat and safety vest, a supervisor standing outside the site said right now they’re doing interior demolition — “soft demo,” he called it — as well as asbestos abatement. All of that will take about six months, he said. Within a year from now, he said, the three former hospital buildings not included in the Rudin plan will have been demolished. Then, there will be two years of construction as the remaining buildings are residentially converted and new construction is done where buildings were razed.

Meanwhile, down the block, on the corner of 11th St. and Seventh Ave., Douglas Esposit stood with his Save St. Vincent’s sign hanging around his neck on a bungee cord. St. Vincent’s handed out these signs more than two years ago as the hospital was fighting for its life. Esposit had his laminated so it doesn’t deteriorate.

“Is there something I can sign up for?” asked Bob Lonigro, a neighborhood resident, as he was rushing by. “It’s a shame,” he said.

However, Esposit didn’t have any petition to sign or any forms to fill out to join a group. He just keeps his vigil outside St. Vincent’s towering Coleman building, which is one of the parts of the former hospital slated for destruction.

“I’m in the oxygen supply business,” Esposit said. At one point, he answered his cell phone and said, “Free therapy,” but declined to elaborate on what that meant.

Two years after St. Vincent’s closed, Douglas Esposit continued to hold a sidewalk vigil for the former hospital last Thursday.

He lives on W. 85th St. and said that if he had to go to a hospital it would be St. Luke’s on the Upper West Side. Still, he said, the issue of St. Vincent’s closure is about saving healthcare for all New Yorkers.

“It doesn’t matter, the location,” he said.

He recalled a friend, Steve, an Englishman who was 22, who died of AIDS at St. Vincent’s.

“Is there any hope?” a woman anxiously asked Esposit. She said she lived down the block and that the hospital had twice treated her young daughter after bad spills.

“Why are they allowed to start the interior demolition if it wasn’t approved yet?” she asked.

She was skeptical of the 24-hour, free-standing E.R. slated to open in 2014 across the street in the hospital’s former O’Toole building. Costing $110 million, the E.R. and healthcare center will be run by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

“I think it’s BS,” the woman said. “Can they deal with heart attacks?”

According to North Shore-L.I.J., the facility, in fact, would be able to stabilize someone having a heart attack, but the person would then have to be transported to a full-service hospital.

As for Esposit, trying to bring attention to the St. Vincent’s issue, he used to show up with his  sign on Fifth Ave. during the shooting of the “Early Show” on CBS. Another time, he stood outside the NBC set as Al Roker was doing his segment.

Esposit frequently could be found outside the former St. Vincent’s. He said he noticed actor Matthew Broderick walking by once, and said to him, “Pray for us.”

“He said, ‘I will,’ ” Esposit recalled.

Asked if he’ll continue to hold his sidewalk vigil with his sign, he indicated he might.

“The weather’s getting nice…,” he said with a smile.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Rudin Management said the interior demolition work at the vacant hospital is legal.

“All of our interior work has been approved and permits have been given by all necessary agencies, including the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department and the Department of Environmental Protection,” he said.

The spokesperson didn’t confirm the benchmarks given by the on-site supervisor, noting, “We are still developing our construction timeline.”

According to a City Council spokesperson, the full Council will hold the final vote on the Rudin ULURP application for the project at next week’s stated meeting on Wed., March 28.

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