Hospital effort is still alive as two appeals are filed

By Albert Amateau

Opponents of the sale of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital property to Rudin Management and North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System are still fighting for a chance to restore a full-service, acute-care hospital in Greenwich Village.

Arthur Schwartz, the principal attorney with the Public interest law firm Advocates for justice, who contested the sale in Bankruptcy Court last week on behalf of the Fulton Houses tenants Association, filed a notice of appeal on Monday to overturn the April 10 approval of the sale by Judge Cecilia Morris. Schwartz is playing a dual role in the appeal, representing his own clients — the tenants of the Robert Fulton Houses in Chelsea — and also representing a group led by former Councilmember Alan Gerson, who also contested the sale in the hopes of finding alternatives to the Rudin-North Shore-L.I.J. deal.

Another opponent of the sale, Yetta Kurland, a founder of the Coalition for a New Village Hospital, announced last week that the coalition would rally in front of the shuttered hospital on Seventh Ave. at W. 12th St. at 2 p.m. Sat., April 30, to reaffirm the demand for a new hospital with a Level 1 trauma center on the site.

Schwartz said that, in addition to the Bankruptcy Court appeal, advocates are seeking other ways to get a full-service hospital for Greenwich Village, or as close to it as possible.

“We’re trying to work behind the scenes with North Shore-L.I.J. and Rudin to see if we can get something better that what they have proposed,” Schwartz said. Under the sale approved in Bankruptcy Court, North Shore-L.I.J. will spend $100 million, plus a $10 million contribution from Rudin, to convert the six-story O’Toole Building on the west side of Seventh Ave. into a comprehensive healthcare center with a 24/7 free-standing emergency department.

Schwartz said advocates were talking to Rudin about finding other sources of funds to improve the health center and emergency department deal.

“I’m interested in not just being combative but in working positively toward community goals,” Schwartz said. “As a longtime labor lawyer, I’m used to negotiating both sides of an issue,” he said. Schwartz has been the lawyer for the Transport Workers Union in their conflicts with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over the years.

Gerson’s group, which includes Dudley Gaffin, an attorney, and Dr. Robert Adelman, formerly of St. Vincent’s Hospital, had claimed the privately negotiated sale of the St. Vincent’s property did not give adequate notice to allow others to offer alternatives to the Rudin-North Shore-L.I.J. deal.

But Gerson last week said there were options other than the Bankruptcy Court appeal to gain time to develop a better hospital deal. One strategy, he said, would be asking the state Department of Health for help during the necessary approval process for North Shore-L.I.J.’s plan for the O’Toole Building. In addition, Gerson said the group could also try to leverage a better hospital deal by taking an active role in the approval process for Rudin’s residential redevelopment of the St. Vincent’s campus on the east side of Seventh Ave.