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Carter's View

According to an article by Carl Campanile in today's edition of The New York Post, "sources" have said that Continuum Health Partners, which operates Beth Israel, St. Luke's and Roosevelt hospitals in Manhattan, has submitted a plan to the New York State Department of Health to "assume control of the financially struggling, 727-bed St. Vincent's" Hospital in Greenwich Village, "the city's only remaining Catholic hospital."

The article quoted "a source involved in the discussions" as stating that Continuum would "close all acute care" units such as surgical services and inpatient beds within 60 to 90 days. The article also said that sources maintained that "two holders of a combined $300 million St. Vincent's debt - GE Capital and TD Bank - support the Continuum takeover with the tacit approval of the state," adding that "State Health Commissioner Richard Daines previously served as CEO of Continuum's St. Luke's Hospital."

The plan would convert St. Vincent's from a hospital to a community health center. St. Vincent's, which is 160 years old, occupies the western half of the block bounded by the Avenue of the Americas and Seventh Avenue and 11th and 12th Streets, and the eastern side of Seventh Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets, and the triangular block bounded by Greenwich Avenue, Seventh Avenue and 12th Street.

The proposal would severely scale back St. Vincent's regional trauma and emergency center, according to the article, which added that "Continuum would continue to operate ambulatory care or outpatient treatment services at St. Vincent's, and possibly expand such services."

The article noted that "he death of St. Vincent's would leave the lower West Side without a full-service hospital" and that the plan "was spelled out in a letter sent by Continuum CEO Stan Brezenoff last week to St. Vincent's board of directors."

Kevin Finnegan, political director of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, was quoted in the article as saying that "It would be outrageous for the state to even entertain offers to close the only hospital that services hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who work or live on the West Side of Manhattan below 59th Street."

The hospital recently received approval from the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to proceed with its $1.6 billion modernization plan that included selling its properties east of Seventh Avenue for $300 million to the Rudin Company, which plans to redevelop those sites for residential condominium apartments, and razing the Edward and Theresa O'Toole Medical Services Building for a new hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb Freed Architects.

The O'Toole Building is notable architecturally for its nautical motifs and had been designed by Albert Ledner for the National Maritime Union in 1964 and the hospital's decision to demolish it resulted in a major preservation controversy.

Six leading preservation organizations filed a brief as amici curiae with the New York Supreme Court November 4, 2009 in a case challenging the hardship ruling by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission authorizing the planned demolition of the O'Toole Building.

In announcing its participation in the "friends of the court" brief, the Municipal Art Society said "By applying a test much more lenient than the courts have sanctioned, and inventing a campus-based exception to the Landmarks Law, the LPC has upset the finely tuned balance the law strikes between the rights and needs of non-profit property owners and the values of historic preservation. Even more disturbingly, the LPC's reasoning opens the door - far more than the Constitution requires - for non-profit owners of landmarks and buildings within historic districts to circumvent the requirements of the Landmarks Law."

The new tower was reduced in the final approval by the landmarks commission about 40 feet in height to 286 feet and the tallest residential building designed by the Rudins by FXFowle was also lowered in height.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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