Bill from Hoylman aims to protect consumers amid coronavirus fears

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced legislation on Tuesday that would address price gouging of consumer medical supplies during a public health emergency in order to penalize retailers that take advantage of concerns about coronavirus and increase prices by more than 10% on products such as face masks and hand sanitizer.

“It’s said that after the storm come the vultures – and that’s exactly what could happen here if we don’t act now to stop price gouging in anticipation of the coronavirus outbreak here in New York,” Hoylman said. “Profiting off fear of disease is unconscionable. We can’t allow shady businesses to hike prices on the supplies New Yorkers need to stay safe and healthy, like hand sanitizer and face masks.”

Hoylman also noted that healthcare professionals have discouraged the use of face masks.

“The U.S. Surgeon General has made it clear that face masks won’t help healthy people avoid COVID-19: the best way to stay healthy is by washing hands regularly and getting the flu shot,” he added.

Under the new legislation, the New York State Attorney General could penalize retailers, manufactures and distributors who increase prices on these products. Prices on face masks and hand sanitizer have increased significantly in neighborhoods in Manhattan, including the Upper West Side and Chinatown.

The legislation would specifically amend the state’s price gouging statute in order to establish that an “unconscionable excessive price” is a price more than 10% higher than before the public health emergency began. The bill would ban stores from selling consumer medical supplies, including over-the-counter medications, hand sanitizer and face masks, at an unconscionably excessive price during a public health emergency.

The Attorney General would also be able to enforce a civil penalty of up to $25,000 against businesses that have been proven to have participated in price gouging.

In other countries where coronavirus is most prevalent, Amazon announced that third-party listings have unfairly charged customers for medical supplies, including in Italy and Australia.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced on Wednesday morning that three family members of the Westchester resident who was diagnosed with coronavirus earlier this week have also tested positive and two contacts have been transferred to Bellevue for testing. The three family members of the Westchester resident who tested positive include his two children and his wife, and all three remain in home isolation in Westchester.

The Westchester resident works at a law firm in Manhattan. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said on Tuesday that this is the first case of community spread of the disease in New York City, meaning that the source of the infection is unknown. The individual is currently hospitalized at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan and is in severe condition.

NYC Health+Hospitals is working closely with the Health Department, which has also conducted outreach and offered guidance to city hospitals and health providers about how to identify, isolate and inform the city about individuals who might need evaluation for COVID-19. The city’s Public Health Laboratory can now test for the infection, which allows for shorter turnaround time for test results compared to when samples had to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s headquarters in Atlanta, and the Health Department this week will lower the threshold for people who get tested so that person-to-person transmission can be detected.

The infection can lead to fever, cough or shortness of breath and while come infections have resulted in severe illness or death, others have milder symptoms. The city is recommending that if individuals who have traveled to China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea are experiencing fever, coughing or shortness of breath, they should stay home and avoid contact with others, and contact a health provider and tell them about their travel history. All New Yorkers are encouraged to cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbows and now hands, wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available and avoid touching their face with unwashed hands.

Town & Village drive collects 450 toys, baby items

Bonnie Robbins, coordinator for children and family services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, will help distribute the toys throughout the hospital systems’ 10 clinics. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Town & Village readers once again helped bring some holiday cheer to families who use the outpatient clinics run by Mount Sinai Beth Israel by donating approximately 450 toys and items for new babies to the annual drive this year, overwhelmingly topping last year’s donations of around 250.

Bonnie Robbins, PhD, is the coordinator for children and family services at MSBI and said that the marked increase in donations can be attributed to residents who also donated boxes of diapers, pampers and gently-used baby clothing, which in past years are not items that the drive has received.

Robbins said that some donors use the drive as an opportunity to “declutter” and donations have include used items in poor condition, which the clinics would never give the patients for their children, but most of the clothing was freshly laundered and in great condition, so Robbins said that she was fine with including those in the drive because baby clothing is often “passed down” anyway. Food items like formula were also donated, but unfortunately had to be discarded because Robbins said that the clinics can’t distribute food items that they haven’t purchased themselves because it’s too difficult to tell if the items have been tampered with.

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Petitions ask Cuomo to study hospital downsizing

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein delivered petitions to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office in Midtown on Monday, asking the governor to further study Mount Sinai’s plan for downsizing Beth Israel. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, local residents and healthcare advocates delivered a thousand petitions to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown office on Monday afternoon, calling on the governor to further study the impact of Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s downsizing on the community.

The petition requested that Cuomo direct the State Department of Health Services to stop further closure of services at Beth Israel and conduct a thorough, independent study of the impact of the closures with community input.

“We just want to talk to the State Department about next steps,” Epstein said. “We want to talk about a larger study, a real study, to find out if this is really in the best interests of the neighborhood or if this is just a real estate deal.”

The petition argued that the reduction of beds from the current Beth Israel to the new facility being built is a “health crisis” because the hospital is still in use and that the Cardiac Surgery Unit, Maternity Ward and Pediatric Surgery Unit were closed in 2017 with approval from the State Health Department but without a community-vetted replacement plan in place.

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Mount Sinai criticized on lack of public notice, closure of maternity services at forum

Mount Sinai Chief of Ambulatory Care Kelly Cassano, VP and Chief of Strategy for Behavioral Health Sabina Lim and Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of the Mount Sinai Health System Jeremy Boal addressed questions at the public hearing held at Baruch last Wednesday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents and local elected officials at a sparsely attended public hearing on Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s downsizing plan last Wednesday slammed the hospital system for the lack of notice about public meetings on the project and the elimination of the maternity ward at the facility.

The $1 billion project from Mount Sinai includes a new hospital facility at East 14th Street and Second Avenue to replace the Beth Israel Hospital on First Avenue, which is expected to open in 2022.

While Mount Sinai Corporate Director of Community Affairs Brad Korn attributed the low attendance at the event to the soggy weather because a nor’easter was moving through the city in the midst of Wednesday’s evening commute, Epstein argued that it had more to do with lack of notice to residents in the neighborhood, or that even if attendance was affected by weather, the outreach was insufficient regardless.

Korn said that Mount Sinai publicized the most recent hearing, which was held at Baruch College, by sending the flyer out through the local community boards and the working group with the Borough President’s office, and Epstein argued that wasn’t enough.

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MSBI files Certificate of Need for downsizing plan

A rendering of the new campus, northeast view from the corner of Second Avenue and East 13th Street (Rendering courtesy of MSBI)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mount Sinai Beth Israel has filed a Certificate of Need (CON) with State Department of Health on Monday to proceed with their downsizing plan that will drastically reduce the number of hospital beds in the Gramercy area, advancing the $1 billion project.

Representatives for MSBI told Community Board 6 members earlier this year that changes to the plan had delayed the submission of the CON, which they had expected to get approved by the end of last year. The process is an endorsement the state requires before the construction of a new healthcare facility.

The hospital system found newly-undiscovered unused space at the New York Eye and Ear facility, adjacent to where the new hospital will be built, and representatives at a meeting in February said that space allowed them to reconfigure the new building at East 14th Street and Second Avenue.

Brad Korn, corporate director of community affairs for Mount Sinai Beth Israel, assured CB6 members that the changes would not further decrease the number of beds but did say that the building could be shorter.

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New MSBI will be seven stories

The site is now a vacant lot where a New York Eye and Ear Infirmary building once stood. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The downsizing and relocation of Mount Sinai Beth Israel took a step forward last week when the hospital filed an application to begin construction at its new site on East 13th Street, east of Second Avenue.

According to the filing, the new structure, with the address 315 East 13th Street, will be seven stories plus a cellar and a mechanical penthouse. As of this week, construction workers could be found at the site, now a vacant lot, next to Mount Sinai’s New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. Workers were also doing renovations to the infirmary’s basement.

The filing was first reported by YIMBY, who noted that the lot, formerly a 14-story building that housed doctors and staff of the NYEE Infirmary, was demolished last August. The application was filed last Tuesday by the architect Jeffrey Brand of Perkins Eastman.

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Do you recognize this woman?

Police are asking the community’s help in identifying a woman who has been admitted to Mount Sinai Beth Israel at 281 First Avenue.

The woman was found on the street disoriented by passersby, who then walked her over to the hospital on Thursday, April 18 at around 4 p.m.

She is described as white, about 55-65 years of age and 180 lbs. She was wearing all dark clothing.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at Nypdcrimestoppers.com, on Twitter @NYPDTips. All calls are strictly confidential.

Downsized Beth Israel may get even smaller

Mount Sinai Beth Israel Corporate Director of Community Affairs Brad Korn and Mount Sinai Senior Director for Community and Government Brad Beckstrom discuss the new facility at Tuesday’s Community Board 6 meeting. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The new Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital planned for East 13th Street may be shorter than initially planned due to newly-discovered unused space at the adjacent New York Eye and Ear facility, representatives announced at a sparsely-attended Community Board 6 meeting this Tuesday.

“We discovered that there was more property available inside the New York Eye and Ear building, which allowed us to reconfigure what we’re going to do with the new building on 13th Street,” said Brad Korn, corporate director of community affairs for Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “We’re not changing any of the programs or promises we made on beds or anything like that, but it just makes it a little easier and will be a little less intrusive in the new build-up.”

Korn said at the meeting that the new space delayed the hospital from submitting a certificate of need, which was expected to be approved by the end of last year and will now likely be submitted by the middle of this year.

“(The new plan) will connect to the New York Eye and Ear building so it will become an integrated hospital,” said Brad Beckstrom, senior director for community and government for Mount Sinai.

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Measles is a concern for New Yorkers, says NYU Langone doctor

By Sabina Mollot

Despite some pretty stringent rules about immunization in schools, measles has made its comeback. So far, cases have been reported in 10 states, including New York, where there have been over 200 reported cases, all in Orthodox Jewish enclaves upstate as well as in Brooklyn.

According to the New York City Health Department, there have been 67 cases of measles since last October, all in Brooklyn.

To keep the disease from spreading in the city, mandatory school exclusions are currently in effect for children attending yeshivas or yeshiva-based childcare centers in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park. This means the students must remain home from school while the outbreak is ongoing, including children who have religious exemptions or valid medical exemptions.

Meanwhile, upstate, Rockland County has seen 130 cases, Orange County 10 cases and Monroe County seven, according to the State Department of Health. In response to the outbreak there, Rockland County has excluded approximately 6,000 unvaccinated children at schools that are either located in close proximity to cases or that have vaccination rates below 95 percent.  State health officials have also met with local rabbinical leaders, parents and pediatricians on school exclusions and on getting children vaccinated.

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MSBI behavioral services building will soon be vacant

Mount Sinai Beth Israel on First Avenue, west of the Bernstein Pavilion (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mount Sinai will be moving its behavioral health services from the Beth Israel Bernstein Pavilion facility west of First Avenue in Stuyvesant Square to a new space on Rivington Street as part of the hospital system’s downsizing plan.

Mount Sinai has signed a letter of intent to lease 45 Rivington Street and create a mental health facility that will include the services now housed at the Bernstein Pavilion and other facilities in the downtown area, leaving the building on Nathan D. Perlman Place across from Stuyvesant Square Park vacant. Mount Sinai is not yet discussing plans for the building once it’s empty.

The move will include the addition of new services at the Rivington location, such as intensive crisis and respite beds, primary care and ambulatory detoxification, to create a “one-stop” location for mental health, addictions, physical health and social service needs.

Although MSBI had intended to renovate the Bernstein Pavilion, the facility is more than 60 years old and that plan was ultimately not feasible, the hospital said.

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THANK YOU: Nearly 250 toys donated to Town & Village holiday drive

Dr. Bonnie Robbins of Mount Sinai Beth Israel says this drive has become more crucial to the families the hospital serves. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Readers of Town & Village have once again made the holidays a little brighter for children stuck in hospital rooms as well as the families utilizing the outpatient clinics run by Mount Sinai Beth Israel by donating nearly 250 toys to this newspaper’s annual drive.

Gifts for kids of all ages were donated this year including instruments, jewelry making kits, board games, action figures and fashion dolls.

Town & Village’s partners on this longstanding community tradition are Stuy Town Property Services, the management of Waterside Plaza and M&T Bank on First Avenue and 23rd Street, who all provided convenient toy dropoff sites.

Bonnie Robbins, PhD, coordinator of children and family services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, has said in recent years it has been more challenging to get enough toys to meet the needs of patients. This has been, she suspects, in part due to the economy but also competition from other drives for donations from individuals and toy retailers.

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VA Medical Center could be re-named after woman war hero

Margaret Corbin took her husband’s place at the battle of Fort Washington in Manhattan after he was fatally wounded.

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday, Manhattan Congress members announced legislation to rename the Manhattan VA Medical Center after Margaret Corbin, a Revolutionary War hero.

Corbin fought alongside the Revolutionary Army and was the first woman to be recognized for her military service by the United States. With this bill, the facility would be renamed to the “Margaret Cochran Corbin Campus of the New York Harbor Health Care System.”

When asked about the bill, a spokesperson for the Manhattan VA, located at East 23rd Street between First Avenue and Asser Levy Place, said it would be premature to comment.

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Bellevue Hospital expands primary care

Bellevue CEO William Hicks; Dr. Andrew Wallach, clinical director of ambulatory care and the clinical chief of primary care at Bellevue; and other physicians at the ribbon cutting for the newly expanded primary care center (Photo courtesy of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue Hospital)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Bellevue Hospital has announced that it is expanding adult primary care services in a newly-repurposed space, with the goal of having patients be able to get treatment for different issues in one location.

The hospital’s clinic, which had already been offering some primary care services on the ambulatory care building’s second floor, has expanded to add 12 patient exams rooms and increased the available space by 2,200 square feet for a total of 13,300 square feet. Bellevue CEO William Hicks said that the clinic was able to take over space that was previously occupied by the hospital’s World Trade Center health program, which has relocated to the hospital building of Bellevue.

Dr. Ted Long, who is the vice president of ambulatory care at Bellevue, said that the new space, as well as new processes in place at the clinic, will reduce wait times for patients looking to make an appointment. The average time for new patient appointments has already been reduced to 14 days from 40.

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Woman last seen at Beth Israel after making suicidal statements: Cops

Oct11 Victoria Chavez

Victoria Chavez

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for a woman who they say had made suicidal statements and then disappeared from Mount Sinai Beth Israel, where she was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.

Victoria Chavez, 26, a resident of Brooklyn, was last seen on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. leaving the hospital located at 281 First Avenue across from Stuyvesant Town. Police said she left on her own accord.

She is described as being approximately 5’4″ tall, weighing 125 lbs., with a thin build, brown eyes and black hair. She was last seen wearing a white dress and gray socks.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at http://www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, on Twitter @NYPDTips or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

Eleven-story building planned at former site of Beth Israel Karpas Center

Sept20 Karpas demolished

CIM group is the owner of the First Avenue property, which previously housed four small buildings. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm CIM Group appears to be moving along with its plans for the property that used to be the Beth Israel Karpas Health Information Center.

The four small adjoining buildings on First Avenue and 18th Street across from Stuyvesant Town have finally been demolished after undergoing a lengthy asbestos abatement treatment.

Additionally, CIM Group has filed an application with the Department of Buildings to be an eleven-story residential building with some retail space. According to the filing, it will have 48,374 square feet of residential use and 6,966 of commercial (with a total 55,340). Continue reading