Volume 79, Number 46 | April 21 - 27, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters To The Editor

St. Vincent’s goes silent

To The Editor:
This morning, April 9, I saw my surgeon for the last time at St. Vincent’s. It was incomprehensible to me that this institution that had healed me countless times over the years was to be no more. Walking through the corridors, the usual cheeriness and dynamic energy of people who made it their life’s work to nurture and heal was now replaced with a moribund silence. The hospital itself was dying and as I walked down the familiar corridors for the last time, nobody gave me their usual smile. People were avoiding eye contact, small groups of doctors and interns were talking among themselves.

I began to get emotional and to cry the way I cried after losing a loved one. I cried for all the West Side residents and workers who would now have a far more difficult time having to travel crosstown seeking medical treatment in a strange and more crowded hospital, and possibly even die because of the longer travel time to get urgent lifesaving care; and I cried for the 3,500 professionals who would soon lose their livelihoods in this difficult economic time. 

Then my thoughts turned to the deadly silence of our mayor, who fought so vociferously to overturn term limits to get re-elected; who fought on and on for a useless football stadium in this same neighborhood that he was now turning a deaf ear to. I thought about the mayor’s strident efforts to build “luxury” housing all over the West Side and his determined efforts to beautify the city, but how not a peep was uttered by him on this life-and-death issue for his constituents.

I’m an artist who has lived and worked in the Village and Chelsea for many years. A few months ago, I was in the hospital recovering from surgery and my wife came to visit me. I had a room on the 12th floor facing south. Looking out the window she said, “Wow, this is a million-dollar view.” I suspect the mayor’s real estate buddies also have an eye on that million-dollar view because those are the only people he has stood up for and who will no doubt benefit from this tragic fiasco. 

Yes, there were many factors that led up to this day, including our fractured medical system, the hospital’s mistakes, the Catholic Church’s problems, the hospital’s generosity in treating the indigent and poor, the downturn in the economy, the indifference of some politicians. The list goes on and on. However, the needs of our community will no longer be met with compassionate care but with an empty, deadly silence. After more than 160 years of continuous care and compassion, it is a shame to see this institution — its employees, doctors, nurses, patients and its function as a healing entity — disappear without any care or compassion. 
David Klass

Quick collapse leaves questions

To The Editor:
Re “With St. Vincent’s Hospital flatlined, future is as clinic” (news article, April 14):

The article about St. Vincent’s closure in the April 14 issue of The Villager notes, “since January, the hospital has been operating with a monthly loss of between $5 million to $10 million.” The implication is that this pattern of loss, which has produced catastrophic results, is relatively recent, having occurred for just a few months. 

However, in the same paragraph, the article reports, “since 2007 when the hospital emerged from bankruptcy with $700 million in debt,” the liabilities have grown to an estimated “$1 billion,” an increase of $300 million in three years. This amounts to an average increase in debt of about $8.5 million each month for the entire three-year period that St. Vincent’s was supposed to have been in financial recovery. Ironically, it was during this same period that the hospital was purportedly moving full-speed ahead with its plans to build a new facility that it reported as costing nearly $1 billion.

Potential receipts for the sale of the hospital’s east campus have been reported as being about $300 million, which is less than half of the hospital’s debt in 2007 and less than one-third of its current debt. It is hard to imagine how, with a $400 million obligation in 2007, or $700 million today, St. Vincent’s could have raised another billion dollars for its new construction plans. With the east campus gone, the hospital would have been without a home.

Although, from the outside, the collapse of St. Vincent’s appears to have occurred in a remarkably short time, this collapse could not have come as a surprise to its administration. Despite the frantic efforts in January and February to forestall immediate closure, an unmistakable pattern of economic hemorrhage must have been occurring for years. That an institution of the caliber and importance of St. Vincent’s could be gone in less than six months from the time its problems first became public is almost unthinkable. At the very least, it raises the question of who was minding the store.
Carl Stein, FAIA

Hospital was a lifesaver

To The Editor:
Re “St. Vincent’s pulls the plug; Historic hospital will close” (news article, April 7):

Spent a week in the cardiac care unit there and I don’t know what I would have done without that great staff. I’m afraid the closing will just overload the remaining hospitals and E.R.’s, severely impacting an already-overloaded healthcare system.
Laura Goggin

Story behind the story

To The Editor:
“With St. Vincent’s Hospital flatlined, future is as clinic” (news article, April 14):

I’d honestly appreciate an investigation into why St. Vincent’s Hospital’s deal with Mt. Sinai was suddenly quashed. It seems to me and other of your readers that there were some dirty political dealings going on that are now being hushed up. And we’re afraid that once St. Vincent’s closes, there will never be an explanation of what really happened. I’m amazed that financial institutions were bailed out, and C.E.O.’s continued to rake it in, while the city’s infrastructure is being scuttled. And all for what? For some shady real estate deal?

I have no kind words to say about our mayor, but his lack of comment, other than to announce the hospital’s closing, is rather shocking. This is a man who, in hard times, squandered more than $100 million on getting re-elected, yet seems disturbingly unconcerned that we are losing a hospital that cared for millions, especially those 9/11 first-responders. I have no right to tell anyone how to spend his money, but these are really hard times for all of us and, at best, his actions strike me as cavalier.

What many of my friends and neighbors and I would like to see is a thorough investigation and explanation of what happened and who is responsible for this tragedy. And I don’t use the word “tragedy” loosely — because I think of all the people who will need emergency services that won’t be able to go to St. Vincent’s anymore, and who will die because of it. 
Jay Matlick

Hands off W.S.V. garden

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. hopes to start building on superblocks within 2 years” (news article, April 7):

If New York University needs to expand its empire over the next 20 years, it should understand that its plan to raze the Washington Square Village garden would be an incredible crime against the community.

This garden is a sanctuary, home to dozens of old-growth trees, most notably a majestic weeping willow. Countless squirrels and many species of birds, including cardinals, flocks of robins and doves, call this garden home. It is also an important spring feeding ground for local bees. Where will all these creatures go? N.Y.U.’s additional plan to destroy the Bleecker St. “forest” across the way, leaves little remaining green space.

Turning the garden into a “Rockefeller Center”-type plaza would bring increased litter and noise, including at night, to a space that currently provides a much-needed spot for meditation, tranquility and healing in an otherwise chaotic and congested area.

N.Y.U. — if you must, go ahead and build low-level buildings at either end of the block, but please let our beloved garden paradise remain.
Valerie White

Don’t touch ‘strips,’ either

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. hopes to start building on superblocks within 2 years” (news article, April 7):

I do not support the N.Y.U. 2031 plan for many, many reasons. An overriding concern is that the computer-generated plans lack any context in which humans are involved.

The trees and plants and flowers surrounding the proposed 2031 areas are special, unique and add beauty and grace to our crowded, noisy, overbuilt neighborhood.

As a resident of Washington Square Village, I walk through the gardens and am transported to the special place that was uniquely designed as a one-of-a-kind urban oasis. The thought of plinth-ing it makes me as sad as war and pestilence.

Both the Transportation and Parks departments have mandated responsibilities to the citizens of New York, and always shun them by saying, “Not my jurisdiction.” Roadbeds are D.O.T.’s responsibility.

The city is so concerned with tourism but lacks the vision to see that these special blooming places add photographic and memory value to the trips these tourists take. Watch their faces, see their cameras, as they walk our streets.

We must preserve these treasures for ourselves and for our guests.
 Judith Chazen Walsh

N.Y.U., greenery gobbler

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. hopes to start building on superblocks within 2 years” (news article, April 7):

N.Y.U. claims it is listening to its neighbors and trying to accommodate us by building a 40-story tower on Bleecker St., encroaching on a landmarked area — for which it will be seeking a variance — and destroying not only green space but the beautifully designed I.M. Pei buildings and their surroundings.

The university’s other plans include encroachments on city-owned green spaces along LaGuardia Place and Mercer St.; eliminating not only the Washington Square Village garage and the children’s playground but also much of the green space on the streets between Third and Houston Sts.

So, for all its claims, N.Y.U. is destroying what is left of Greenwich Village. Is it selfishness, greed, thoughtlessness or just discourteous, unimaginative N.Y.U. again? 

We neighbors “ain’t” pleased by N.Y.U.’s designs on our Village. 
  Sylvia Rackow
Rackow is a member, Neighborhood Preservation Committee, 505 LaGuardia Place

Another part of the plan?

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. could save hospital” (letter, by Barbara Bova, April 14):

Barbara Bova is right. N.Y.U. probably will “rescue” St. Vincent’s. My scenario is that they will wait till St. Vincent’s is useless and the community desperate. First, with no close emergency room, there are all those unprotected students — who ride special buses — and then the neighborhood folks who also need a full-service hospital. N.Y.U. will swoop in to grab up another piece of real estate and pretend to be the shining knight on a white horse, while they add the space to their expansion plan and barter for no restrictions or landmark limitations.
Susan Leelike

‘If trees go — then I go’

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. hopes to start building on superblocks within 2 years” (news article, April 7):

Dear N.Y.U.,
If you plan to cut down

the cherry trees on Bleecker

I will chain myself to them.
 
the sweet smell of bark

the ants crawling, the birds lilting.

this is where I want to beif the trees go;

I want to go with them.
 
everyone needs to hold on to something

larger than herself — but not a forty-story tower.
 
I have watched you grow,

seven seedling sprouts

to mature trees returning to bloom every spring.
 
you give a beauty of surprise to the city,

you are the surviving heiress of a less-greedy time.
 
you are all that is left of sunny mornings and green giving,

I surrender to your strong back and perfumed air,

I am sick of broken promises left at my door.

N.Y.U. you got it right the first time,

planting luscious greens and dancing trees.
 
now you want to mow them down

and give us cool slabs that block the sun

dark caverns of streets,  pyramids of hubris.
 
nobody can live in a tower

except a fairy-tale princess
 
if you’re going to chop down the cherry trees

then I’m hanging on because there will be no Village left

to call Greenwich, no Poe House, no Provincetown,
 
Nothing I recognize to call home

so braid my arms around the trees.
Lee Schwartz

Landmark, before it’s too late

To The Editor:
Re “Party out of bounds” (letter, by Martin Delarue, March 31):

Martine Delarue’s letter really hit home. We really need to landmark anything historically or architecturally important in the East Village immediately.

Two great losses come to mind. There was 25 St. Mark’s Place, the former site of the All-Craft building. Three wonderful Federal-style buildings joined together. There is one left! Also 295 Bowery, the site of “McGurk’s Suicide Hall,” demolished in late 2000. There’s not even a plaque on the present building to let passersby know that there was once such an infamous saloon as McGurk’s there!

As far as N.Y.U. goes, we have to really monitor them — since we can’t trust them — regarding property they own. Example: the beloved Poe House that was once at 85 W. Third St. and now lives on as a travesty! Also, N.Y.U. must be watched in terms of property they want to acquire. This is extremely important!
John Heliker
Heliker is a former member, Save Poe/Save Judson House Coalition

E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 145 Sixth Ave., ground floor, NY, NY 10013. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters.

 

 

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