Wednesday, May 5, 2010

St. Vincent's Plywood

With the closure of St. Vincent's Hospital, a pall has settled over the abandoned building. The Emergency signs have been ripped from the facade, leaving twisted cords dangling like entrails.

The emergency room's ambulance loading ramp has been covered over with plywood. Candles and flowers set a funereal tone. "Closed" signs flank a saintly goodbye poster memorializing the hospital's birth and death: "1849-2010" with "A boundless thank you..."

And all around it, on the plywood, neighbors have written notes in black Magic Marker.

Some of the notes express gratitude for lives saved, and for lives lost with grace.

Others express rage--pointed at politicians: "Fuck you Bloomberg! May you break a leg on 7th Ave & 10th!"

And aimed at the New New York, the irrationally exuberant city of twisted priorities: "money for stadiums," and the shamefulness of being "sold out for luxury apartments!"

It reminded me of the last time the exterior of St. Vincent's became a community board for memorial notes, in the days after 9/11, when every spot on the hospital's wall was covered in Missing flyers, handwritten notes of despair, portraits of grief.

And through it all, a stricken sense of betrayal, shock, and disbelief.

This time, a 160-year-old hospital has vanished. Make way for the condos.


EV Grieve said...

Are there really people out there who just can't wait to live in a luxury condo here?

What a travesty.

Eileen said...

Thanks for this post. I've worked in the ED, and it's heartbreaking to see what we've come to.

Can't wait to see how quickly this building is razed to make way for luxury condos that will be totally out of character with the Village aesthetic. But money talks.

Mayor Bloomberg never tried to intervene with the state or help in any way. He stated the closure was "No big thing"... Tell that to the little stores, restaurants and coffee shops in the neighborhood. With the hospital closing they are doomed. And, Mayor, 3,500 innocent people out of work IS a big thing.

God help NYC if there is another 9/11...

Caleo88 said...

At this point I doubt there are actually that many people who want to live in a luxurified condo. But developers don't build according to need. Unless you count their need for more money in their personal bank accounts. An excellent article Jeremiah linked to some time ago from The Atlantic stated that many, if not most luxury condos in the city are less than half full. Some only a third full. So how a developer convinced some dupe to front the money for yet ANOTHER CONDO project really blows my mind.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Apologies if this posts twice, Blogger seems to be experiencing medical difficulties...too bad there's no ER when needed.

Anyway, it boggles my mind when trying to comprehend how it's all right to close a necessity like this hospital, and perfectly fine to put up luxury condos (which only serve a small number of people) on every other corner. I think the loss of St Vincent's can only be felt the hard way.

BTW, St Vincent's saved me, too - I really don't know what I would have done without the skill of the ER and CCU. Probably not typing here today...

Jill said...

This is truly sickening. A nurse I know told me that ambulances from the West Village will now go to Bellevue. I am scared for the inevitable first death due to a traffic jam that is bound to make front page news any minute now.

A doctor friend told me that 2 Catholic hospitals in Queens have recently closed (1 is St Johns where I had my tonsils removed in 1969) and said that the financial problems of the church have a lot to do with this but I haven't seen that angle covered in the press.

Unknown said...

Now I hear from some folks who worked there that they have been told by NY State Unemployment Insurance they are not eligible for benefits because St Vincent's did not pay their payroll taxes since 2007.
So they are out of a job and have no income.
Their pensions are screwed as well.

Jeremiah Moss said...

mary, that's insane. and awful.

chris flash said...

Something indeed smells when the city AND state of New York can subsidize with TAXPAYER dollars an unnecessary and unwanted stadium at Flatbush + Atlantic Avenues that will include luxury housing in place of the middle-class residential and locally-owned businesses that are being wiped out by way of the state's abuse of its power of eminent domain for the benefit of a private developer, but won't do ANYTHING to save a hospital that is vital to the West Village and surrounding neighborhoods.

Obviously, hospitals don't grease politicians -- developers do. And politicians have no problem screwing over anyone anywhere, as long as the price is right.

Hospitals that serve communities consisting of middle and lower-income folks help to keep such communities intact, encouraging residents and businesses that serve them to stay put. This tends to get in the way of the master plan to permanently change the demographics of NYC to that of the upper-class, which can afford its own doctors and health care.

With the closing of St. Vincent's and the building of the Brooklyn "Atlantic Yards" project, things are moving right along according to plan....those fucking bastards!!

Unknown said...

Further to this mess ... several of the stores and restaurants in the area, where employees and patient visitors shopped and dined are closing - they don't have the same level of business anymore.

It is all so terribly rotten!

Anonymous said...

I was admitted to the emergency room at St. Vincent's in the late 1980s. There was a young man in a "hall room." That is the only way to explain it. The man's room was in the hallway. He obviously had AIDS. I was at the emergency room for awhile and I started to cry. I looked up and the young man was looking at me with such compassion, it still breaks my heart. As I finally left, on crutches, I looked over to him and he gave me a sweet smile. To this day, I still can cry over the memory.

Anonymous said...

We live in the "Staff House" for St. Vincent's (w. 15th St) and almost all tenants (over 180 units) are not having their leases renewed. The hospital is trying to sell the building (new owners or tear down building for bigger hi-rise). I understand the hospital needs $ but this is yet another side of the travesty. Everyone must leave by June 30.

Jill said...

That is a horrifying bit of bad news. I'm so sorry. Have the tenants spoken to a is it that you can just be removed from your home? Why is there no protection from things like this? It's very scary.

Anonymous said...

Re: St. Vincent's Hospital housing. Actually they thought this might be coming and prepared tenants a few months ago. Most residents are hospital staff and their lease says it won't be renewed if they are no longer employees. These leases were up June 30, and tenants were informed a few months earlier. A few rent stabilized tenants (some for over 30 years) did have attorneys and one way or another worked it out. But being "legal" is different than being decent. "Medicine is a business". (actually everything is a business in NYC these days I guess. So much for community needs.)

Anonymous said...

NYS Senate Health Committee Chair Thomas K. Duane
and Co-Sponsors NYC Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Manhattan Borough President
Scott M. Stringer, US Representative Jerrold L. Nadler, NYS Senator Daniel L. Squadron,
NYS Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick, NYS Assembly Health Committee Chair
Richard N. Gottfried, NYC Council Member Margaret Chin,
& Manhattan Community Boards 1,2,3&4 invite you to an educational panel:

How Can We Get Back a Hospital for Our Community?

And How Can We Preserve and Expand Health Care in Our Community Now?

Hear From:

* Health Care Providers

* Health Care Workers

* Public Health Advocates

* The Hospital Industry

So We Can Learn About Our Options
Friday, May 21st, 5:00 p.m.
Our Lady of Pompeii Church
25 Carmine Street, basement
(between Bleecker & 7th Avenue South)

For more info, contact Crystal in Senator Duane’s office at (212) 633-8052 or

Please bring your neighbors and friends!!