St. Vincent’s calls on Koch to make calls for expansion

By Albert Amateau and Lincoln Anderson

Former Mayor Ed Koch has been tapped to be co-chairperson of Friends of the New St. Vincent’s, a new group supporting St. Vincent’s plans for a new hospital on the west side of Seventh Ave. and residential buildings on the east side of the avenue.

St. Vincent’s intends to present its preliminary plans for the combined project with the Rudin Organization at a meeting co-sponsored by Community Board 2 on Wed., Oct 10, starting at 6:30 p.m., at St. Vincent’s Hospital, 170 W. 12th St., 10th-floor Cronin Auditorium.

Villagers got a heads-up about Friends of the New St. Vincent’s by electronic phone messages over the weekend from Koch seeking their support for the Greenwich Village hospital’s expansion project. In the phone message, Koch said Villagers would also be getting a glossy mailing from the Friends seeking support for the new project.

Hizzoner told The Villager that the hospital asked him to take the unpaid co-chairperson position about four weeks ago.

“They’ll be happy to have this hospital in the Village when it’s done,” Koch said of local residents. “It’ll be the most up-to-date hospital in the city. I think that the vast majority of Villagers support the hospital.”

However, what about the strong opposition from many residents living right near the hospital, he was asked.

“I have never met people living on a block who will say, ‘We love having a hospital or a school or a police station on the block,’” he said.

Told about neighbors’ fears that the Rudin Organization will develop the east side of Seventh Ave. as a “wall of buildings,” Koch said, “What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it a wall of buildings now? I saw the plans. They are also going to build brownstones on the original block.”

Hearing that plans were being shown around, at least to Koch, The Villager called Michael Fagan, a St. Vincent’s spokesperson, to see if the newspaper could get a gander at them. Fagan said that the plans would be unveiled at the Oct. 10 meeting but were not ready for the public yet.

“I’ll have to see about that,” he said when The Villager pressed him for a preliminary peek prior to the meeting.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and a critic of the St. Vincent’s-Rudin project, suggested the hospital might not really need the income from the residential component of the project. He noted that the Berger Commission recently awarded St. Vincent’s $17 million to offset the loss in services caused by the recent closing of St. Vincent’s Midtown on W. 52nd St. at Ninth Ave.

“That should reduce their need for luxury housing,” Berman said. But he said the deck remains stacked against opponents, at least in terms of dollars. “Clearly the monetary advantage is with St. Vincent’s and Rudin,” he said, referring to their new P.R. campaign.

The glossy mailing from the Friends of the New St. Vincent’s, with a return postage-paid postcard in support of the project, arrived at some Village mailboxes on Monday, Berman said.