Verena Dobnik, AP
One of New York's most powerful real-estate families has teamed up with a health care provider to turn the historic St. Vincent's medical center into a walk-in emergency facility that also contains hundreds of luxury apartments, according to a deal announced Thursday. An affiliate of Rudin Management — RSV LLC — will spend $260 million to help cover the debt of the closed and bankrupt Greenwich Village hospital. The new facility, to be operated by the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, is scheduled to open by the fall of 2013.
Health-care activists say the plan leaves Manhattan's Lower West Side without a top-level trauma center. "The so-called comprehensive care center offered in this plan falls short of the full-fledged emergency room and hospital this community needs," said Dr. David Kaufman, a former St. Vincent's physician. "True medical emergencies will continue to require a long and life-threatening trip by ambulance to a hospital outside the community. This is the realization of our worst fear." City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democrat, spoke at a gathering of Manhattan residents and elected officials discussing whether community medical needs will be met in the wake of the deal.
"The closing of our hospital is a tragedy that has created a hardship for both local residents and local businesses," Quinn said. The deal with Rudin "is just the first step in a process," she said. "We have consistently said that we want a 24/7 emergency room and hospital, and we will keep working towards that goal." St. Vincent's, the city's last Catholic-affiliated hospital, filed for bankruptcy before closing in April and laying off more than 1,000 employees, citing a debt topping $1 billion. Its remaining assets — including several nursing homes — are being sold to pay creditors.
St. Vincent's opened in 1849 to treat cholera patients and other poor New Yorkers for generations. The hospital later pioneered AIDS treatments, while serving as a level-one trauma center, providing a full range of specialists and equipment to handle severely injured patients 24 hours/day. Under the partnership, North Shore-Long Island Jewish will spend $110 million, including $10 million from Rudin, to transform the former hospital's O'Toole Building on Seventh Avenue into the 160,000-square-foot North Shore-LIJ Center for Comprehensive Care. The emergency facility will include an imaging center and an ambulatory surgery unit and is expected to employ more than 300 workers.
The old hospital's emergency room, which treated victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, was in another building across Seventh Avenue — one of four on the St. Vincent campus to be torn down. Five others are to be renovated. About 300 apartments will be created on West 12th Street in former hospital property. The deal "will help restore healthcare services for thousands of people in the Greenwich Village community," the hospital said in papers filed Wednesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.
However, severe trauma patients will only be stabilized at the facility, then transferred to nearby hospitals such as Lenox Hill Hospital, which is owned by North Shore-Long Island Jewish and located on Manhattan's East Side. The Rudin family also has promised to build a neighborhood school on 17th Street and renovate a public park at Greenwich Street and Seventh Avenue. The deal is subject to bankruptcy court approval, as well as approval from various city, state and federal agencies.