Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, left, led the rally to keep open the hospital, which is in in her district, as veterans, right, applauded.
V.A. Hospital advocates fear property will be sold
By Albert Amateau
More than 100 veterans heard from elected officials and medical professionals at a rally earlier this month about efforts to stop the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from closing the Manhattan V.A. Hospital on First Ave.
Carolyn Maloney, whose district includes the hospital between E. 23rd and E. 25th Sts., led the May 9 program with a pledge to work for keeping full services at the only V.A. medical center within 100 miles that offers cardiac and vascular surgery as well as neurosurgery, rehabilitation medicine, kidney dialysis and H.I.V./AIDS treatment.
Senator Charles Schumer, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler and Councilmember Margarita Lopez also spoke against proposals to reduce services at the hospital and merge it with the V.A. Hospital in Brooklyn or close the Manhattan center and possibly sell it for private development.
The fate of the E. 23rd St. hospital is to be decided by the secretary of Veterans Affairs, R. James Nicholson, early next year. The department in March commissioned the accountants Price Waterhouse to develop alternatives for the Manhattan Hospital as part of a restructuring plan for 18 veterans medical facilities across the nation.
Price Waterhouse is to make a preliminary report on the 23rd St. hospital to a regional advisory group in August.
Advocates for the hospital are concerned that the estimated $500 million real estate market value of the property would lead to a decision to close the facility and sell the property. However, current zoning restricts the use of the site to a public facility, according to Lopez. She said she would propose zoning with even stronger restrictions to make the property less attractive to developers of luxury housing.
Elected officials, veterans groups and medical authorities, including Dr. Robert M. Glickman, dean of New York University School of Medicine, and Dr. Van Dunn, vice president for medical affairs of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, have joined to form the Committee to Save the Manhattan V.A. Hospital.