Volume 80, Number 7 | September 23 - 29, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Scoopy's Notebook

“100” days vs. 50 reasons:
After more than 160 years in operation, St. Vincent’s Hospital closed its doors for good on April 30 — with a staggering $1 billion in debt. Healthcare insiders have said chances of getting a new hospital on the Lower West Side anytime soon are basically nil. Plus, VillageCare and North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System recently announced an agreement to team up on a state-funded urgent-care center on W. 20th St. that would help fill at least some of the healthcare vacuum left by St. Vincent’s going under. But none of that’s deterring the die-hard advocacy group Coalition for a New Village Hospital from its plans to hold a “100 Days Without a Hospital” rally outside the former Catholic hospital, at 12th St. and Seventh Ave., on Sun., Oct. 17. (Umm, not to nitpick — but by that date it will actually have been 170 days without a hospital. Maybe “100 Days Without a Hospital” just sounded more catchy?…) The demonstrators will demand that the existing hospital campus — or at least part of it — be reused as a full-service hospital and not developed into luxury condos. “Every minute counts” in the case of a medical emergency, traffic injury or terrorist attack, the group says, adding that an urgent-care center isn’t enough, since it doesn’t treat life-threatening conditions. Meanwhile, back in May and June, we were hearing lots of talk about how Richard Daines, the state Department of Health commissioner, basically had it in for St. Vincent’s, and refused to give either his blessing or the needed “transition funds” for Mt. Sinai Medical Center’s proposed last-minute takeover of the failing hospital. In response to our newspaper’s query on whether St. Vincent’s could have been saved, or if Daines instead just let it die, a D.O.H. spokesperson e-mailed us then what we’ll now call the “50 Reasons Why St. Vincent’s Collapsed.” The response starts with “The State Health Department did not advocate for, nor in any way support or encourage, the closing of St. Vincent’s,” and continues from there. Other points include the fact that St. Vincent’s, to continue operating as a stand-alone hospital, would have needed $300 million, which the state didn’t have to give; that only 14 percent of hospital admissions for residents in the 11 zip codes around St. Vincent’s actually went to St. Vincent’s; that St. Vincent’s, despite having a Level 1 trauma-care program, which cost millions of dollars to maintain, only saw one trauma case per day; and that, in D.O.H.’s opinion, “the number of hospital beds in Manhattan appears to be adequate to meet need.” So, even though, er, 153 days have now passed since St. Vincent’s closing, we assume the state’s “50 Reasons” haven’t changed. We’ve posted the state Department of Health’s full response on our Web site at www.thevillager.com .

From Chinatown to Hollywood:
James Solomon is known to many activists around Downtown as a member of Community Board 2 and a leader of the Chinatown Working Group, which is hard at work discussing and planning for Chinatown’s future. But when he’s not devoting all his time to the C.W.G., Solomon is also a screenwriter, whose new movie, “The Conspirator,” had its gala premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11. Solomon wrote the original script for the film, which is based on the true story of Mary Surratt, the only woman charged in the Abraham Lincoln assassination conspiracy. Robert Redford directed, and the cast includes James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Alexis Bledel and Justin Long. Filmed in Savanah, Ga., “The Conspirator” is set for release this spring. In Toronto, the film received a standing ovation from an audience of 2,000 — are we sensing “Oscar buzz?” ... Solomon was also executive producer on “The Bronx Is Burning,” the acclaimed 2007 ESPN eight-hour miniseries about the 1977 Yankees.

In Jane’s name:
An “underground group” calling itself the Jane Jacobs Brigade is furiously rallying opposition against New York University’s expansion plans. The brigadiers reportedly count among their number many N.Y.U. faculty living on the university’s two South Village superblocks — ground zero for the school’s development schemes. At C.B. 2’s meeting two weeks ago about the sweeping zoning changes that N.Y.U. wants for the superblocks, we were asking around for information about the mysterious group. All we were hearing, though, was that its leader is a blonde woman, possibly named Lauren, whose handout fliers are very impressive, but that no one knows her full name. People have e-mailed the address on the fliers, we were told, but gotten no response. As if on cue, someone suddenly said, “There she is!” Standing nearby was a blonde woman hurriedly distributing fliers. We shook her hand and started to ask her a bit about herself, but, without saying a word, she shook her head anxiously and waved her hand. Right then, a few other community activists bustled around us and we turned our head for a fraction of a second, and when we turned back around again — Jane Jacobs Brigade had vanished. Anti-N.Y.U. activist Susan Goren (whose dad, Arnold, was a former N.Y.U. vice chancellor) had the most information about the mystery woman. “She is the older sister of a former across-the-hall neighbor of mine,” Goren said. “I don’t know her name, but her sister is named Kathleen Hulley and she teaches at continuing ed at N.Y.U. They live at 505 LaGuardia Place, like my family and Alan Gerson’s.” (P.S., Susan Goren a.k.a. “The Squirrel Whisperer” recently rescued a baby squirrel that fell out of a tree on Washington Square North. She cared for it in her apartment along with a pair of Queens squirrels she got from Animal Care and Control that were going to be euthanized. She fed them formula in a bottle for three weeks, keeping them in a large aquarium — without water, obviously. For a special treat, she’d let them go bananas in her bathroom. The critters have been sent to a “rehabber” in Poughkeepsie, who will later release them into the wild.)

Chin taps Viggiano:
Speaking of the N.Y.U. superblocks plan, many have been impatiently wondering when new Councilmember Margaret Chin will take a position on it, since the blocks are right within the northern tip of her Council District 1. Chin, whenever asked, however, has merely flashed her disarming smile and remained mum. What she has done, however, is to hire Matt Viggiano as her director of land use and planning, and he’ll be assisting her on reviewing N.Y.U.’s ULURP application when the time comes. According to Jake Itzkowitz, Chin’s chief of staff, Viggiano has a background in planning and just received his master’s degree in the field. Viggiano, who grew up in Southbridge Towers, was former state Senator Marty Connor’s chief of staff and former Councilmember Alan Gerson’s director of land use and planning. He was also most recently the “planning fellow” at Community Board 1. Itzkowitz said Chin felt it was a good idea to bring Viggiano aboard with the N.Y.U. zoning plan on the table, plus the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area redevelopment probably coming up in the next few years. “He knows the district,” Itzkowitz said of Viggiano. “He knows the people.” As for why Chin herself hasn’t weighed in on the superblocks proposals yet, Itzkowitz said it wouldn’t be appropriate. “There’s no reason to show your cards before you negotiate,” he said, though adding, “I don’t think her position is very different from Alan’s. We’re going to work very closely with Community Board 2. Her line has been, ‘“New York University” — it should be in New York, not just in the Village.’ She’s committed to the community garden, for sure, on LaGuardia.” But Chin is holding off on giving her full opinion — just as Council Speaker Christine Quinn always does — until the actual vote in the Council. Although Borough President Scott Stringer, for one, has publicly stated he’s concerned about overdevelopment on N.Y.U.’s South Village superblocks, Itzkowitz noted the B.P.’s role in ULURP is only advisory. On the other hand, the Council’s vote is the final step in the process and is binding.

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