orman Siegel, Esq. Testimony at Press Conference March 10, 2012Sham Public Hearing on March 6 at NYC City Council –Rudin’s ULURP Application for St. Vincent’s siteI am here today to support members of Manhattan’s West Side and the Greenwich Village and Chelsea community who want and need a full service Trauma 1 hospital in their community. I also speak out in strong opposition to what occurred on Tuesday March 6 at the Public Hearing concerning the current plan for the St. Vincent's site.
1. First and foremost, residents of Manhattan’s West Side need a hospital that is adequately accessible to its residents. Eliminating St. Vincent’s Hospital and replacing it with 450 luxury condos creates a healthcare crisis for residents and visitors alike. For example, it is not adequate that if you need immediate emergency care that you must go to Beth Israel on the East Side or St. Luke’s Roosevelt on West 59th Street. Residents need a full service hospital here on 12thStreet and Seventh Avenue and not a two bed facility! I urge all our elected officials to stand with the community in calling for a Greenwich Village hospital. This is a not only a Manhattan West Side issue - it is a New York City issue. If the City can transform a 350 bed hospital site into luxury housing here in this community it will create a precedent that will lead to the elimination of other community hospitals. We must oppose this here and now.2. Second and very troubling is how the hearing was conducted. Shame on the City Council and the Speaker. Scheduling a hearing in a room at 250 Broadway that holds 40 people when you should have anticipated a large turnout is not only wrong but suspect. And even if you did not anticipate a turnout of 200 - 300 people you should have. Hundreds of people waited in the cold wanting to testify. At that time you should have moved the hearing to the City Council Chamber which could have accommodated ten times more people. According to records, alternative spaces were available.To have residents, many of whom were senior citizens, wait for hours in the cold to gain access to a public hearing is cruel and undemocratic. The right of the public to fully participate in a public hearing of public concern is a cornerstone of a democratic society. To deny this right is not what NYC’s governing body should be about.Reportedly, letting the Rudin spokespersons in and not allowing the opponents in on an equal basis is also wrong, undemocratic and suspect. Public discourse must take place on an equal playing field. The City Council, at a public hearing stage, must be fair and provide all opponents an equal opportunity to present their views. This was not done last Tuesday. Last Tuesday, unfortunately, was unequal and favored one party to this controversy over another. Rudin’s spokespeople went first and the room was filled with all of Rudin supporters. The opponents followed. Rudin’s spokespeople had all members of the committee present to hear their position. By the time the opponents spoke there were only two or three out of the 11 council members or their representative present. Not fair. Wrong. Suspect. This is not what democracy looks like.What happened on Tuesday March 6 requires:1. An investigation by the Mayor’s office to establish whether this hearing was conducted in error by oversight and lack of appropriate planning or by a biased intentional design?
2. Public statements by City Council members and any and all candidates wanting to run for Mayor in 2013 as to where they stand on (a) the St. Vincent’s controversy and (b) what happened on Tuesday, March 6. We, the voters, need information so we can hold officials accountable.
3. A public apology by the City Council and its leaders to those who attempted to participate in last Tuesday’s error filled public hearing. Thank you.---o0o---For Immediate ReleaseMarch 10, 2012
Outraged Village/Chelsea Residents Hold Community Press ConferenceAgainst City Council Shutdown of March 6 Public Hearing
DATE: Saturday, March 10TIME: 12 NoonPLACE: 12th Street and Seventh Avenue (South/West Corner)Speakers will include Norman Siegel, Esq., noted civil rights attorney; Tom Allon, Democrat and Liberal candidate for Mayor; and, Miguel Acevedo, President, Tenants Association, Fulton Houses and other community members.It is our purpose today to expose the significant betrayal of the public trust by the N.Y.C. Council’s denial of full public participation in the March 6 public hearing held by the Zoning and Franchises Committee on the land use proposal (ULURP) of the Rudin Management Company. This proposal is for building 450 condos on property previously owned by St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers of New York located in Greenwich Village on West 11th and West 12th Streets. What happened and failed to happen on March 6 needs to be communicated clearly to the public to restore accountability in the process of the democratic system. The facts about the event is a story that has not been well disseminated, when to do so would benefit all who live in the City of New York and care about its priorities.As more details have come to our attention, what transpired can only be described asshocking. As early as 7:00 a.m. police were in riot gear, the lines formed around the block. Inexplicably some individuals passed through guards easily while others were rudely told to wait – elderly, disabled no matter, they were directed to stand outside. One elder collapsed seemingly related to the length of the time in line. People waited 3-4 hours, and many left because of stress and the interminable wait. Only a fraction of those waiting actually entered the hearing, and the vast majority were turned away. Inside, the hearing room itself was small (capacity of 41) and it was occupied mainly by the Rudin group and press, and the crowded overflow room was so inhospitable it put disabled and frail seniors at risk. Even the webcam which was to be available in the overflow room was shut off. The public was denied full participation in the Rudin’s St. Vincent’s ULURP application review process.This meeting was “noticed” to begin at 9:30 A.M. at 250 Broadway 16th Floor on March 6th. Community residents were assured repeatedly by Speaker Quinn’s office that, due to the historic significance of the final vote, the very large crowd expected that day would be given adequate space for all attendees. In addition, assurances were given that the special needs of the disabled and elderly would absolutely be accommodated. This notice of meeting was distributed widely and activists opposed to the plans to build condos and upset by the loss of the hospital encouraged as many as possible to come. Anxiety about the loss of the 161 year old hospital and medical center propelled even those who never attend meetings to show up on what was forecasted to be one of the most frigid days of the entire 2012 winter.Now, after multiple meetings and sifting through reams of paper applications and regulations that truly are the domain of only the professionals, the community is appraising what to do next. The ordinary citizen who sees the major loss of medical and emergency care services with time running out to obtain a second hearing, and whether public meeting laws are applicable here, and the danger that political power will make the decision to revert to the previously approved City Planning application vote. The latter leaves the community essentially with a total loss of the hospital and a huge building development (that notably also excludes affordable housing of any kind or much-needed school space) with a small triangle for “a park.”Finally, what is the significance of the community being so obviously shut out from full participation in this final public hearing? And of all the regulatory mazes that can be manipulated to mislead even the most educated citizens?These are the basic facts. There is no hospital on the ever expanding west side of Manhattan from the Battery Park to 59Th Street. Our lives as residents, workers, students and tourists are increasingly at risk. Minutes matter, life and death or disabilities are determined by the travel time to an east side facility. There is no facility for pediatric emergencies.
The substitution of an experimental 2-bed stand-alone “emergency room” by the Rudins and the NorthShore/LIJ/Lenox Hill group with a nearby small triangular green spot cannot and should not be considered an appropriate land use swap when compared to the magnitude of the loss of public access to timely and appropriate health care services. These are significant public health needs that cannot and should not be ignored. Who speaks for the people in this situation? No one can if the public hearing is closed.
The proposed rezoning basically hands most of the special zoning considerations from St. Vincent’s Hospital, which was granted them to build larger new hospital facilities, to Rudin, to build luxury condos. This is not acceptable for this site, and this is not acceptable for anywhere in Greenwich Village. Special zoning considerations granted to institutions which serve a legitimate public purpose should not be handed off to private developers when that institution ceases to exist. We need a hospital.