Volume 74, Number 2 | June 1- 7, 2005

Villager photos by Josh Argyle

The exterior of the former German Dispensary, below right, features busts of, among others, Aesculapius, a mythical Greek healer, and Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine.

Mind and body finally severed, as clinic will become condos

By Bonnie Rosenstock

When Anna Ottendorfer, German language newspaper publisher and philanthropist, established the Freie Bibliothek u. Leshalle (Free Library and Reading Room) and Deutsches Dispensary, at 135 and 137 Second Ave. and E. Ninth St., respectively, in 1883-’84, it was with the noble goal of “uplifting both the body and mind of fellow Germans in the United States.”

Remarkably, the Ottendorfer Library is still operating in its original building. However, after 122 years of providing continuous healthcare to the community, the body has been severed from the mind: In a surprising development, The Villager has learned that Cabrini Medical Center, the current owner of the renamed Cabrini Stuyvesant Polyclinic, has sold the facility to Evan Gottlieb, a private developer, who will convert the historic building into condos. J. Baczynsky, the owner of the next-door building and street-level East Village Meat Market at number 139 Second Ave., was also approached about selling his property. Baczynsky authorized one of his shop workers to inform The Villager that he had no intention of selling.

In a phone conversation with Thomas Hayes, vice president for corporate affairs for Cabrini, he conceded that the reason for the sale was financial.

“Cash is tight,” Hayes stated. “Everyone is having similar problems. Running a hospital in New York is difficult financially. We had to look for ways to economize and reduce costs. The polyclinic is a valuable asset to sell.”

Furthermore, added Bob Chaloner, Cabrini president and C.E.O., “The polyclinic is so old and difficult to maintain. To bring it up to the standards of modern medicine would be very expensive. We can’t get wheelchairs up to the third floor, for example. The only way to keep programs is by consolidating to fewer locations.”

Services and staff will be redistributed to Cabrini’s other, more modern facilities. Mental health services will be relocated to the main hospital at 227 E. 19th St.; routine/primary medical care will be divided between Haven Plaza Clinic, at E. 12th St. and Avenue C, and Cabrini East Village, at 97 E. Fourth St.; and H.I.V. services will be moved to Cabrini Outpatient Center on Third Ave. between 19th and 20th Sts. Moreover, of the 42 employees at the polyclinic, about 10 will lose their positions. Since workers are laid off according to seniority, explains Chaloner, they may bump one or two employees at the other sites.

“The people who are laid off will go on a recall list. We’re pretty good at this. As other positions open up, they will be rehired,” he declared.

Gottlieb confirmed he was in the final phases of closing the deal on the property, but did not want to comment further at this point on his future plans for converting the building into condos. According to Cabrini, the sale price was $7 million.

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