West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 19 | October 10 - 16, 2007

Talking Point

As West Side grows, it’s time for new St. Vincent’s

By Ed Koch

I’ve lived in the Village for more than 50 years. And I’ve seen it all.

I’ve also been through it all, which is one of the reasons why I find the modernization plan by St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan so important.

After five decades in New York City — including 12 years as mayor — I’ve gained a certain appreciation for many of the more “hidden” institutions throughout the Big Apple; the institutions you pray you never have to call upon, but are forever grateful when you have to. Tops among these institutions: the Police Department, the Fire Department and hospitals. We are comforted and thankful merely for their presence. We don’t ever want their service. But when we need it, we’re relieved that they’re ready to serve.

Which is why it’s so fantastic that here in New York, we’re blessed with some of the best police officers, firefighters and doctors in the world. But while there are numerous police and fire stations located on the West Side between 57th St. and the Battery, there’s only one hospital and emergency room — St. Vincent’s.

St. Vincent’s is one of those institutions that seems like it has always been here. In fact, it almost has. For more than 150 years, St. Vincent’s has been a part of the Greenwich Village community. It was among the first hospitals to address and treat H.I.V./AIDS in the 1980s and was the primary admitting hospital for those injured in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. St. Vincent’s is the closest E.R./trauma center for those living or working in the Village, Chelsea, Tribeca, Midtown, Wall St., Penn Station, Times Square or Madison Square Garden areas.

In spite of projected rapid growth in population in these areas, along with technological changes and dramatic medical advances in the last three decades, St. Vincent’s made its last major infrastructural change when I was mayor in the early 1980s. St. Vincent’s needs to change. And we need to be willing to change with it.

The Department of City Planning’s report on population projections (the “2030 report”), which showed that our city will be getting bigger — much bigger — in the next 25 years, reported that New York City will grow by nearly 1 million people by 2030. A large amount of that growth will happen right here, on the West Side, right smack in the middle of the St. Vincent’s coverage area.

St. Vincent’s new hospital — designs of which were just released — would adapt to past growth, implement the technological and medical advancements of the past 25 years, and prepare the Village for the next century by creating a world-class community hospital, right here in the Village.

I’m proud to co-chair a coalition of residents and organizations in the Village and other West Side neighborhoods — the Friends of the New St. Vincent’s — whose mission it is to ensure that St. Vincent’s can successfully prepare our neighborhood for the healthcare challenges we will face in the next two to three decades.

From the beginning of the process, St. Vincent’s has considered the community as a partner, seeking its input in this endeavor. For nearly 10 months, the hospital has engaged elected officials, preservationists and other civic leaders in order to come up with the best plan for the neighborhood — in terms of both its people and its history. To be clear, in all my years of public service in New York City, it has been a true rarity for an organization to reach out to the community the way St. Vincent’s has.

Nobody has to tell us that St. Vincent’s faced a challenge with its new project. We’re an opinionated bunch. And we’re willing to speak our minds — loudly at times — and that’s part of what makes this community a wonderful place. But what’s astonished me is the phenomenal enthusiasm on the part of St. Vincent’s to create forums for these concerns to be aired and then find as many ways as possible to incorporate them into its plan, while still ensuring that the Village gets the world-class hospital it deserves.

Village residents who have lived here as long as I have know how much this area has changed in the last few decades. We’ve seen residents leave and new residents move in. We’ve seen shops close and new shops open. But the character of the Village will never change, because it is the people living here that give it its unique energy and character.

By building this new hospital, we are indeed changing. But we can never change the Village for what it is — its people. And with this new hospital, we’ll be making certain that Village residents have the medical safety to which they need access. Help us make it become a reality. Your support is needed.  

A Greenwich Village resident, Koch was the 105th mayor of New York City from 1978-’89; he is co-chairperson of the Friends of the New St. Vincent’s.

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