Yetta Kurland, activist attorney, heading the coalition to return a hospital to the West Village responds to a recent statement by our local politicians.
Myths and Facts
about St. Vincent’s
Four elected officials who represent the people of the Lower West Side of Manhattan have recently submitted a letter that propagates certain myths concerning the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital and the efforts of thousands of their constituents to restore a hospital at the St. Vincent’s site.
We are all susceptible to myths. They offer easy solutions to difficult problems. But we have to be careful.
There is a difference between real solutions and the comfort of myths. If we accept the myths put forward to keep our community in line while a few decide our fate, we could lose.
Let us examine these myths:
Myth 1: The Berger Commission made no specific recommendations or findings regarding St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Fact: The Berger Commission’s job was not to make affirmative findings of hospitals to keep open, but to identify any hospitals that could be closed. Not only was St. Vincent’s allowed to continue its operations, but the Berger Commission did make an affirmative finding that St. Vincent’s was “essential.”
Myth 2: St. Vincent’s had accumulated over $1 billion of debt because of the costs of health care and that is why it was forced to close the hospital operations at West 12th Street, implying that St. Vincent’s was economically unfeasible.
Fact: As we now know, the overwhelming majority of this alleged debt was not accrued by the running of St. Vincent’s Hospital, but was transferred to St. Vincent’s from other institutions.
Myth 3: Section 2806 of the NYS Public Health Law does not apply to the closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital and therefore the hospital closed properly.
Fact: The closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital violated Title 10 Section 401.3 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, The Municipal Laws and Open Meeting Laws, the New York State Constitution and Section 2806 of the NYS Public Health Law. Title 10 states in pertinent part that St. Vincent’s was required to tender to the DOH a closure plan that provided for a continuation of services and a safekeeping of records and that the DOH was required to ensure, approve, and transmit this approval in writing to St. Vincent’s before allowing such closure to begin. This was not done. The services provided by St. Vincent’s were terminated not because of St. Vincent’s debt, but because the DOH refused to allow Mt. Sinai to take over these operations. As such, the DOH created a constructive revocation of the Certificate of Operations and Section 2806 Paragraph 6 applies. This paragraph says that the commissioner may suspend, limit, modify or revoke a Certificate of Operation only “after taking into consideration the total number of beds necessary to meet the public need” and complying with the other obligations outlined in the law to include the public in this determination.
Section 2806 of the NYS Public Health Law is in place to protect the public from closures by the DOH, which jeopardize proper resources for public health care. It addresses closures in which the Certificate of Operation is terminated without the normal procedure outlined in Title 10, which by the DOH’s own admission includes this closure.
Myth 4: City zoning cannot be used to stop residential or commercial development to replace a hospital at the site of St. Vincent’s. And even if it could, these zoning changes are up to the Bankruptcy Court.
Fact: Community Board 2 acting properly, passed a valid resolution that denounced the use of St. Vincent’s site for anything other than a hospital. The resolution called for the elected officials involved in the ULURP process to prohibit changing the current zoning to residential or commercial use. What do we do when our elected officials continue to ignore and deride this clear directive from the community?
The Coalition emphatically disagrees with the idea that the Federal Bankruptcy Court can decide New York City zoning law. It can’t.
Myth 5: Federal funds are not available for a hospital, and we cannot afford to open a new hospital.
Fact: When St. Vincent’s closed, it had hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. Department of Defense open contracts. The hospital received hundreds of millions of dollars of federal monies which are now lost to the City and to the State. The sooner we restore a hospital, the sooner we can recover these revenue streams and replace thousands of jobs in the community. The fastest and most affordable way to do this is to simply renovate and restore the services at the site of the old St. Vincent’s.
Instead of trying to talk the residents of the Lower West Side into accepting some kind of health facility that is not a hospital, why don’t our elected officials join with the Coalition for a New Village Hospital in demanding a real hospital on the site of the old St. Vincent’s?
We agree that we have to work together, and what the community feels is missing is the commitment by the elected officials of our community to ensure that nothing less than a full-fledged hospital will be acceptable as a replacement at the St. Vincent’s site immediately.
—Steering Committee, Coalition for a New Village Hospital:
Eileen Dunn, former nurse, St. Vincent’s Hospital and former president, New York State Nurses Association
Angela Jones, Community Member
David Kaufman, MD
Yetta Kurland, Esq.
The Honorable Paul Newell, District Leader
Thomas D. Shanahan, Esq.
Support Our Allies
I am in stark disagreement with Arthur Z. Schwartz’s letter (“How Not to Win a New Hospital to Replace St. Vincent’s,” November 2010). While I respect Mr. Schwartz’s activism and shared desire to bring a new hospital to the Lower West Side, I have become disheartened by his recent actions.
His letter decries the potential candidacy of Yetta Kurland. Yet, Mr. Schwartz is himself a potential candidate for the same office. This is confirmed in the November 11 edition of The Villager where Mr. Schwartz says of the 2013 elections, “Betcha there are other potential candidates out there who haven’t showed their hand — maybe I’ll run.” http://www.thevillager.com/villager_341/locallyandnationally.html).
While these two committed community leaders might run against each other in the distant future, it is essential that Mr. Schwartz put his political ambitions aside to better represent our community’s interest. He should not undermine Ms. Kurland’s efforts to restore a hospital.
It is apparent to me and to most of the Lower West Side community that Yetta’s efforts are completely sincere. To attack them only adds fuel to our opponents and undermines our efforts to restore desperately needed health care to the community. While that is obviously not Mr. Schwartz’s intention, I would advise him instead to continue supporting his allies in this movement, because as he acknowledges, it is too important to give up hope on this issue. What should not be hijacked is the community’s interest for any specific candidate’s ambitions.
—Dodge P. Landesman
Member, Community Board 6
Vice President Marriage Equality NY PAC
Squash Players Unite
The Printing House Fitness & Squash Club located on Hudson and Leroy Streets in the West Village has been sold to Equinox, a chain of gyms run by a large nationwide corporation. Printing House was a privately owned health club that was an enclave, an oasis, and a home away from home for many New Yorkers. I know this because I was one of them.
It is important to know what is being lost. Printing House was once one of the best boutique health clubs in New York City. Members often lasted there for years, if not decades, and friendships that began in the classes or on the gym floor often extended into the neighborhood. This was particularly true of the squash players at the club.
The squash program at the Printing House was successful for a few reasons: it had the most courts of any public club in the city (five) and yet was extremely affordable relative to the other clubs. There was no waiting list to get in, no dress code and no strict club rules. And the experience was addictive — being in a totally relaxed atmosphere, having a hard game of squash with a friend and enjoying the health benefits of a super aerobic sport as an alternative to other fitness options that are available at many other clubs.
The physical benefits aside, the social aspect of squash was also a huge drawing card. The sport is extremely inclusive. There were regular round robins where players of any level could sign up for two hours of vigorous competition on the court and then all go out for a drink afterward at a local watering hole. Playing in a Printing House round robin was a complete experience.
Unfortunately, despite this vibrant community of over 250 players, the Printing House recently announced the end of its squash program. Equinox does not offer squash as part of its business model, and hence, the courts will close permanently on December 15 of this year.
Some people may not be surprised by what has happened. They say squash is on the decline worldwide. That squash clubs in London and Sydney and South Africa that were once bastions of the sport are being left to die slow painful deaths, or are simply being converted for other uses. I am afraid that this may actually be the sad truth. That trend, however, does not apply to the U.S., where squash is growing rapidly. So what is happening to the Printing House is not indicative of squash in New York or in the U.S. generally. The closure of the last remaining genuine squash club in downtown Manhattan is owing to factors external to the sport.
Not surprisingly, the New York squash community is devastated. Several avid squash players I know moved to the Village to be near their beloved club. These same members are not taking Equinox’s decision lying down. A committee was quickly formed in the interests of keeping squash in downtown Manhattan. They are currently exploring options for a new home.
Would it not be great if New York could develop a player-owned squash club and buck the trend by remaining independent and reincarnating what they had at the Printing House? There will be many challenges, not least of which is finding an available space in which to build the new club. But if anyone can make this happen, it is this group of people — from artists and writers to attorneys and accountants —all of whom are passionate about this sport and will do all they can to preserve it.
We sincerely hope that a new club will be developed with the vision of community as its foundation.
—Brett A Erasmus,
Printing House Squash Member