Volume 75, Number 45 | March 29 -April 04 2006

Villager photo by Gary He

A woman passes the former Cabrini Stuyvesant Polyclinic on Second Ave., where a sign on the front-door gate states that it has closed.

Cabrini clinic’s delayed closing doesn’t ease the loss

By Bonnie Rosenstock

The Villager’s report last June of the impending sale of the Cabrini Stuyvesant Polyclinic was a little premature, but prophetic. Now, nearly one year later, it’s a done deal — almost.

The clinic, located at 137 Second Ave. and Ninth St., closed its doors on the weekend of March 4. But what lies in store for the 123-year-old landmarked building — which served the community as a health facility since its inception in 1883 — won’t be known until the deal for the property is closed, tentatively anticipated at the end of April, according to a Cabrini spokesperson. Details of the sale — the private developer’s name, sale price and the building’s expected conversion to high-end condos or co-ops — are being kept under wraps until that time. Last year The Villager reported the then potential buyer’s name, but he is no longer in the picture. The building’s pending sale price at that time was reported to be $7 million.

Daisy Rodriguez, former director of outpatient services at the beloved neighborhood clinic and now vice president of Ambulatory and Diagnostic Services at Cabrini’s “main campus” at 227 E. 19th St., said she wants the community “to understand that we didn’t close, but moved to other locations in the community and all services still exist.”

According to Rodriguez, the new sites are set up like private-practice settings. At each, there is “a nice waiting room” and a computerized scheduling system to link patients back to their original doctors for continuity of care. The Cabrini Ambulatory Service, in the main 19th St. location, eighth floor, Building D, telephone 212-995-6140, is administering primary care, H.I.V. treatment, infectious diseases, nutrition, social services and grant services. The Mental Health Clinic has also relocated to the main 19th St. facility, seventh floor, Building D, telephone 212-375-4270 or 212-995-7288. Haven Plaza, 1 Haven Plaza (12th St. and Avenue C), telephone 212-677-2280, is providing primary care and general medicine. Cabrini East Village, 97 E. Fourth St., between First and Second Aves., telephone 212-979-3200, has taken up most of the specialty clinics, including hematology, oncology, neurology, surgery, podiatry, cardiology and gynecology. Clinic hours have been expanded, as well as the hours of Spanish-speaking physicians.

Fighting back tears, Olivia Fitzsimmons, a longtime patient and East Villager, said that she and the former staff are having a hard time with all the changes and dispersal of services.

“We are grieving the loss of our family,” she said. “It was a home away from home. The marble staircase, the tiles, crown molding. It was so old, so solid, like a security blanket, and everything was in the same place. Now all the services are in different locations, everyone’s disconnected. The waiting room in Building D is so horrible. The rooms are so sterile. I don’t think I can come here. Little by little, we’re losing all of our beloved institutions and buildings in the East Village,” she lamented.

Echoing Fitzsimmons’s sentiments about the neighborhood’s direction is Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

“It’s an indication of the ongoing trend toward gentrification, which is of great concern to many people in the community,” Berman said. “We are working with the community board, elected officials and zoning groups to include mandatory affordable housing in the neighborhood. Furthermore, as a New York City landmark, and one of the premier landmarks in the neighborhood, its status should be preserved, but you always have to keep a watchful eye.”

Meanwhile, in her new position, Rodriguez routinely goes through the clinics, talks to staff and patients to get their feedback, maintains an open-door policy for staff and meets with them on a monthly basis.

“I like to go to the clinics, especially on busy afternoons,” she said. “It affords me the opportunity to keep contact, which is critical in providing patient care.”

Rodriguez, who was born, raised and still lives on the Lower East Side with her husband and teenaged son, is a very visible presence in the community, whether in the supermarket, in parks or on the streets. The 25-year veteran of the polyclinic relates that it’s also not uncommon for patients to see her parking her car in the outdoor lot on Delancey St. One time, a patient left a note on the windshield to say she missed her appointment and wanted to reschedule.

“She wrapped it in plastic in case it rained,” she said. “I was thrilled to have it. It’s an opportunity to serve the community.”

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