Volume 81, Number 6 | July 7 - 13, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Gerson ends appeal; Hospital advocates still won’t give up

By Albert Amateau

A group led by former City Councilmember Alan Gerson has withdrawn its appeal against the April bankruptcy sale of the St. Vincent’s Hospital property.

But the move was not a surrender, only a retreat to a better battleground, said advocates who are still fighting for a new, full-service hospital.

At the same time, a separate lawsuit, filed by Arthur Schwartz on behalf of residents of the Robert Fulton Houses in Chelsea, is still pending before State Supreme Court Justice Paul Wooten.

The Fulton Houses suit claims that New York State is obliged to maintain a full-service hospital like St. Vincent’s to serve the needs of low-income New York City Housing Authority tenants.

The Gerson group, which includes Dr. Robert Adelman, formerly of St. Vincent’s, and attorney Dudley Gaffin, will continue to fight against the residential redevelopment/ community health center plan “through regulatory or political channels because it is more cost-effective,” Gerson said.

The sale of the St. Vincent’s campus to Rudin Management for $260 million, along with the $110 million conversion of the O’Toole building by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System into a health center with a freestanding emergency department, was approved by Bankruptcy Judge Cecilia Morris on April 7.

A spokesperson for Rudin greeted the withdrawal of the Gerson appeal as “a major step in the plan to return desperately needed emergency service to the West Side of Manhattan.” The Rudin spokesperson added, “Under our plan, 30,000 people who live, work and visit our neighborhood will have access to the best in emergency care and other services.”

The Gerson group had suggested at the April Bankruptcy sale that there were other potential offers that would have preserved a full-service hospital, including one from the National Football League and another from the Pinetree Group, a real estate brokerage.

Morris, however, said the alternatives were too vague and denied a motion to delay the sale. Gerson’s group appealed 10 days later. Since then, no alternatives have appeared and the Gerson group on June 24 withdrew the appeal.

Schwartz, who is also associated with the Gerson group, said on Friday that Bankruptcy Court was not a good venue to raise community health needs issues. The State Supreme Court suit on behalf of Fulton Houses residents is a more likely vehicle, he said.

Schwartz noted that his Fulton Houses suit did not specify where in the neighborhood a full-service hospital ought to be.

“But I believe a full-service hospital — smaller than the 17-story building that St. Vincent’s was planning — could be built in the O’Toole Building. And with a little more funding, North Shore could do it,” he said on Friday.

Schwartz added that he believed the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s 2009 approval of the Rudin residential project might no longer be valid. The project is located in the landmarked Greenwich Village Historic District.

At the same time, the Coalition for a New Village Hospital is carrying on its fight for a full-service hospital. Scores of coalition members turned up at the Department of City Planning’s June 28 scoping session for the environmental review of the Rudin/North Shore plan.

Yetta Kurland, a founder of the coalition, noted that they delivered a petition with 2,500 signatures to the scoping session demanding a full-service hospital.

Kurland assured supporters on Friday that “the coalition has not dropped our challenges to the Rudin co-op plan in the courts, in the streets or in City Hall.”

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