Asbestos cleanup underway at future home to Beth Israel

future beth israel

Eye & Ear Infirmary as seen from Second Avenue (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

During a day of picketing by unionized nurses and other employees of Beth Israel last month, one longtime employee told us that demolition of the site that is to become the future, smaller hospital has been delayed thanks to asbestos. In response, she said, employees who are awaiting the renewal of their contracts in September, have been told they may need to stick around longer than planned at the First Avenue flagship building, which is slowly being emptied of different departments.

Asked about this, a spokesperson for Mount Sinai confirmed the presence of asbestos at the future hospital, which will be located where there is currently another of the network’s hospitals, New York Eye & Ear Infirmary’s residential building, on East 13th Street and Second Avenue. However, she indicated the project is moving on schedule.

“The scheduled demolition and abatement of this building continues as planned and is projected to be completed this fall,” said Lucia Lee. “Our architects, designers and construction firms have been hired and working diligently on the planning. Once the demo is completed we will begin the first construction phase of the new building, pending approvals, including the Certificate of Need (CON). In the meantime, the current Beth Israel hospital remains open and fully accessible to the community and will remain so until the new hospital is opened.”

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MSBI nurses protest to keep pensions intact

July19 Beth Israel nurses First Ave2

Nurses and other 1199SEIU employees outside Mount Sinai Beth Israel on First Avenue (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As Mount Sinai continues its downsizing of Beth Israel’s facilities in preparation for a new hospital to eventually open on Second Avenue, nurses and other employees within the union 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East have been bracing for possible cuts to their benefits.

On Thursday, July 12, union members picketed outside hospitals throughout the city that have employees from 1199SEIU, including Beth Israel on First Avenue and 16th Street and Mount Sinai Downtown in Union Square, formerly Beth Israel’s Phillips Ambulatory Care Center.

At each facility, over a dozen nurses and other union employees marched or stood outside while chanting and holding signs starting shortly before noon.

“Up with the union, down with the bosses!” and “union busting is disgusting” were a couple of the chants shouted from behind a barricade on First Avenue.

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Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association celebrating 50th anniversary

Stuyvesant Square Park these days is sitting pretty, in no small part due to the work of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

When the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association was formed half a century ago, it began as many civic organizations do — as a response to a perceived threat to the community that the residents were willing to fight. In this case, the interloper was Beth Israel, which was expanding its footprint at the time, buying up brownstones in the Stuyvesant Square neighborhood to raze and turn into larger buildings.

Rosalee Isaly, the president of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, who’s been involved in the group’s efforts since 1970, said neighbors were concerned about the expansion impacting their quality of life, especially when the hospital received a federal grant to turn an empty lot at the corner of Second Avenue and 17th Street to build a 40-story building to house its staff. The group, initially just three couples (including husbands who worked as attorneys), fought this tooth and nail.

Eventually that street corner became home to the significantly smaller Hospital for Joint Diseases, and Beth Israel built the 24-story Gilman Hall on First Avenue across from Stuyvesant Town to house its residents. (Gilman has since been emptied and sold to a California-based developer as part of the hospital’s downsizing plan.)

As for the three couples from Stuyvesant Square who made up the founding members of the SPNA, they were John and Mary Tommaney, Adrian and Marisa Zorgniotti and James and Carvel Moore. Isaly, who now owns and manages a couple of local properties and is also an artist, joined the SPNA upon moving to the neighborhood when she was a newlywed. She’s lived there since then with the exception of a few years in the 1970s when she and her family lived in Paris.

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Former Beth Israel Karpas Center will be demolished

311 First Avenue was included in last year’s sale of Gilman Hall to the CIM Group. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The building that used to house Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s Karpas Health Information Center has been sold and will soon be demolished.

The new owner filed an application to demolish the four-story property at 311 First Avenue and 18th Street, last October, and scaffolding now surrounds the property. There is not yet an application for new development although the razing of the building, which also has nine residential units, was said to be in preparation for an unspecified “plan.”

CIM Group, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment group and private equity firm, through an LLC called 305 First Avenue (NY), bought the property last March for $27.5 million from Mount Sinai, according to Acris records.

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New Beth Israel building may be built higher

June16 BI meeting

Brad Beckstrom, senior director for community and government for Mount Sinai pictured at a public meeting in June 2016 (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mount Sinai Beth Israel is planning to build additional floors at the new East 13th Street facility to accommodate more beds if necessary, representatives announced. This is a change from the previously-announced plan since the hospital system had said that a smaller building would be constructed initially but with the ability to build additional floors if demand increased.

Representatives from the hospital system announced the adjustments to members of the Budget, Education and City Services committee for Community Board 5 on Tuesday and noted that this does not change the reduction in beds.

“We still believe we’ll have enough beds but we’ll be building up and adding the extra floors,” said Brad Korn, corporate director of community affairs for Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “(The space) might not end up being beds but it will cut down on the process if we do need it for that.”

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MCIs, noise top tenant concerns at meeting

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg speaks at Sunday’s meeting. Also pictured: Council Member-elect Keith Powers, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Council Member Dan Garodnick and State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

At a Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association meeting that was held on Sunday afternoon, while those in attendance were briefed on numerous issues such as coastal resiliency, the looming L train shutdown and Beth Israel developments, it was the ongoing issues of noise from construction as well as major capital improvements (MCI) that residents seemed most concerned about.

At the meeting, held at the auditorium of Simon Baruch Middle School, Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg spoke about recent MCIs for exterior restoration work, hot water heaters and video intercoms in Peter Cooper Village.

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Mount Sinai opens urgent care center at Union Square facility

Equipment at the new eye examination room (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mount Sinai Beth Israel announced the opening of a new urgent care center in its Union Square facility earlier this week as part of the changes to the hospital amid the plan to downsize. The center officially opened on September 12 at Mount Sinai Union Square with seven standard exam rooms as well as an eye room and x-ray room.

Mount Sinai has been its renovating facilities south of 34th Street ahead of the plan to drastically reduce the number of beds in the hospital on First Avenue that representatives have said reflect changes in the healthcare industry, which is shifting towards outpatient care.

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UPDATED: Beth Israel community needs assessment survey open now through September 22

July10 Beth Israel in the distance

Beth Israel’s First Avenue building (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Mount Sinai, which has already begun the process of downsizing and relocating the Beth Israel Medical Center while creating a Mount Sinai downtown network, is seeking public input. The hospital network has put up an online community needs assessment survey, but it will only be open through September 20. A note on the website says it runs through today, but according to a representative for Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, the date was extended.

UPDATE: The closing date has since been extended again to Friday, September 22.

 

The survey can be accessed through a link  and it is available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

The smaller Beth Israel with reduce its number of beds from over 800 to 220 (70 hospital beds, plus 150 behavioral health beds that will remain at its Bernstein Pavilion). It will be located on East 14th Street and Second Avenue with a focus on an outpatient model of healthcare and include an expansion of walk-in services.

Neighbors seeking input in Beth Israel downsizing plan

Judy Wessler, community health planner

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Despite the usually-slower summer months, community groups have remained focused on Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s downsizing plan, which includes drastically reducing the number of hospital beds. The Gramercy-Stuyvesant Independent Democratic Club hosted a recent forum to provide updates, although representatives from local hospitals, including MSBI, were unavailable to attend the meeting.

Community Board 3 Chair Jamie Rogers said that the community board, along with Boards 2 and 6, has recently been involved in a working group organized by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

“The main asks (of the group) are to maximize community participation and make sure that the State Department of Health is actually listening to our concerns,” Rogers said. “The DOH isn’t the most community-minded of our bureaucracies. We have trouble getting them to our events.”

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Council candidate focused on housing, mental health services

Jasmin Sanchez (Photo courtesy of Jasmin Sanchez)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Lifelong Lower East Side resident Jasmin Sanchez had already been working in public service for most of her career when she decided to try to transfer those skills to the City Council.

Sanchez, who still lives in Baruch Houses in the Lower East Side where she grew up, has experience in the nonprofit sector, working with community leaders at Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and in State Senator Daniel Squadron’s office, which is where she said she learned how to be a community advocate. She is running for the Council seat in District 2, with City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez being term-limited out next year.

A major focus of Sanchez’s campaign is mental health services, primarily because it’s an issue that ties into not only healthcare, but can affect housing and education as well, and has an impact on homelessness. She added that she feels having affordable housing can sometimes be the lynchpin for communities and families, and that it can be especially detrimental for students if they have a tenuous living situation.

“If you don’t have housing, you don’t focus as much on everything else and your performance suffers,” she said.

“It’s not a stable life for kids from shelters. It can be very stressful for them not to have a stable place to live. Schools have mental health services but they have to be holistic and make sure that families are receiving those services as well.”

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NYS Dept. of Health agrees with Mt. Sinai on Beth Israel downsizing

Mount Sinai Beth Israel (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The New York State Department of Health has presented data that supports Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s reasoning for downsizing due to beds going underused.

The DOH discussed its own findings at a public meeting with the Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC) last Thursday.

PHHPC is charged with making decisions concerning the establishment and transfer of ownership of healthcare facilities and makes recommendations to the Commissioner of Health concerning major projects and service changes, and heard presentations from the State DOH as well as from Mount Sinai Beth Israel.

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Advocates call for transparency on MSBI downsizing

Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Non-profit organizations and healthcare advocates are urging the community to demand transparency when it comes to the planned downsizing of Mount Sinai Beth Israel.

The subject was discussed at a meeting held by the Lower Manhattan chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network, a coalition of progressive activist groups, at the property service workers’ union 32BJ SEIU’s headquarters on West 18th Street last Thursday.

Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, moderated the meeting, which was attended by over 100 people. He encouraged the public to contact the Department of Health about the project and demand a community needs study, which the hospital system has said it will not be doing.

Arthur Schwartz, the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village, said that residents should also demand an environmental impact study and encouraged the neighborhood to resist zoning changes for the areas where current Beth Israel buildings will be sold, to prevent developers from building luxury high-rises.

“At St. Vincent’s, we lost because they went into bankruptcy but Mount Sinai doesn’t want to take Beth Israel into bankruptcy,” Schwartz said, referring to the closure of St. Vincent’s in Greenwich Village in 2010. “The state has power here and we have to demand transparency during this process. It’s basically (Mount Sinai’s) own plan and not based at all on input from elected officials or the community.”

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Pols frustrated over lack of input from community in MSBI downsizing

Mount Sinai Downtown President Dr. Jeremy Boal (right) answers a question asked by Council Member Corey Johnson. Pictured at left is Brad Korn, director of community and government affairs at Mount Sinai. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community members and elected officials have expressed concern about the steep reduction of beds at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, once the hospital is downsized as planned. At a forum held in the Union Square hospital facility last Thursday, State Senator Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Corey Johnson brought up the number of beds, and Hoylman added that he was concerned about a lack of community input on the plan, as were representatives for Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Dan Garodnick.

When Hoylman criticized the lack of community involvement in the issue and asked if any of the plans would be modified based on input from residents, Mount Sinai Downtown President Dr. Jeremy Boal admitted that the plan would not.

“We’re skiing in front of an avalanche,” he said, citing financial concerns for Beth Israel. “We’re losing money at such a rapid clip that if we take a giant pause, the community will be left with nothing.”

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Beth Israel’s Gilman Hall sold and may become dorm

Gilman Hall (photo via Google Maps)

By Sabina Mollot

Gilman Hall, the building at Beth Israel Medical Center’s First Avenue campus, that was put on the market last summer has sold for $87 million to an owner who plans to turn it into student housing.

Asset manager CIM Group announced on Tuesday that it bought the 146,000-square-foot Gilman Hall Tower and contiguous parcels.

“The Gilman Hall site represents an exceptional opportunity to reposition and modernize a significant property in an exciting location currently experiencing substantial public and private investment,” said Avi Shemesh, co-founder and principal of CIM Group. “While the surrounding neighborhood offers desirable amenities and excellent public transportation that complements a variety of potential uses, we believe the site is particularly well suited for a student housing and educational facility use for which several institutions have expressed interest.”

A spokesperson for CIM said the company wouldn’t be commenting further on the future of the property.

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Beth Israel plans to stop delivering babies in May

Mount Sinai Beth Israel (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Mount Sinai Beth Israel (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Last November, the president of Mount Sinai Downtown, a planned network of hospitals and healthcare centers that will include a downsized Beth Israel, told Town & Village that newborns being delivered would be getting phased out. At the time, the new network president, Dr. Jeremy Boal of Peter Cooper Village, said there wasn’t a hard deadline, but there simply wasn’t enough volume to justify continuing the service.

But Mount Sinai is now applying with the State Department of Health to discontinue deliveries at Beth Israel by late May. Instead, expectant mothers would be admitted at one of the other in-network hospitals like Mount Sinai West. In its written application to have the hospital’s maternity beds and its well-baby nursery “de-certified,” Mount Sinai explained that it only delivers six babies a day at Beth Israel, with half of the mothers coming from Brooklyn.

While the neighborhoods surrounding Beth Israel have no shortage of young families, Boal told Town & Village back in November that proximity to the hospital just wasn’t driving business there from neighbors.

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