Volume 20, Number 41 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 6 - 12, 2010
Speaker at anti-Park 51 rally on trial for hate speech
One of the keynote speakers at the September 11th protest against the Islamic Cultural Center, Park 51, has gone on trial for hate speech. Dutch politician Geert Wilders is charged with inciting hatred against Muslims with his remarks comparing Islam to Naziism and by calling for a ban on the Quran. Wilders has called for taxing clothing that is frequently worn by Muslims, such as headscarves, saying that they “pollute” Dutch communities. Most discriminatory speech convictions carry only small fines in the Netherlands, although Wilders could face up to a year in prison.
“100” days vs. 50 reasons
After more than 160 years in operation, St. Vincent’s Hospital closed its doors for good on April 30 — with a staggering $1 billion in debt. Healthcare insiders have said chances of getting a new hospital on the Lower West Side anytime soon are basically nil. Plus, VillageCare and North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System recently announced an agreement to team up on a state-funded urgent-care center on W. 20th St. that would help fill at least some of the healthcare vacuum left by St. Vincent’s going under. But none of that’s deterring the die-hard advocacy group Coalition for a New Village Hospital from its plans to hold a “100 Days Without a Hospital” rally outside the former Catholic hospital, at 12th St. and Seventh Ave., on Sun., Oct. 17. (Umm, not to nitpick — but by that date it will actually have been 170 days without a hospital. Maybe “100 Days Without a Hospital” just sounded more catchy?…) The demonstrators will demand that the existing hospital campus — or at least part of it — be reused as a full-service hospital and not developed into luxury condos.
“Every minute counts” in the case of a medical emergency, traffic injury or terrorist attack, the group says, adding that an urgent-care center isn’t enough, since it doesn’t treat life-threatening conditions. A state Department of Health spokesperson e-mailed us what we’ll now call the “50 Reasons Why St. Vincent’s Collapsed.” The response starts with “The State Health Department did not advocate for, nor in any way support or encourage, the closing of St. Vincent’s,” and continues from there. Other points include the fact that St. Vincent’s, to continue operating as a stand-alone hospital, would have needed $300 million, which the state didn’t have to give; that only 14 percent of hospital admissions for residents in the 11 zip codes around St. Vincent’s actually went to St. Vincent’s; that St. Vincent’s, despite having a Level 1 trauma-care program, which cost millions of dollars to maintain, only saw one trauma case per day; and that, in D.O.H.’s opinion, “the number of hospital beds in Manhattan appears to be adequate to meet need.” So, even though, er, 153 days have now passed since St. Vincent’s closing, we assume the state’s “50 Reasons” haven’t changed.
AIDS/HIV nonprofit moving to Lower Manhattan
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, a nonprofit organization devoted to finding preventative treatment for HIV infection and AIDS, has signed a 15-year lease for one floor of office space at 125 Broad Street in Lower Manhattan. The 37,400-square-foot space will become the group’s new global headquarters.
“I.A.V.I. researches and develops vaccine candidates, conducts policy analyses, and serves as an advocate for the field with offices in Africa, India, Europe and the United States,” according to the group’s website.
Chin taps Viggiano
Many have been impatiently wondering when new Councilmember Margaret Chin will take a position on the N.Y.U. superblocks plan, since the blocks are right within the northern tip of her Council District 1. Chin, however, has merely flashed her disarming smile and remained mum. What she has done, however, is to hire Matt Viggiano as her director of land use and planning, and he’ll be assisting her on reviewing N.Y.U.’s ULURP application when the time comes. According to Jake Itzkowitz, Chin’s chief of staff, Viggiano has a background in planning and just received his master’s degree in the field. Viggiano, who grew up in Southbridge Towers, was former state Senator Marty Connor’s chief of staff and former Councilmember Alan Gerson’s director of land use and planning. He was also most recently the “planning fellow” at Community Board 1.
“He knows the district,” Itzkowitz said of Viggiano. As for why Chin herself hasn’t weighed in on the superblocks proposals yet, Itzkowitz said it wouldn’t be appropriate. “There’s no reason to show your cards before you negotiate,” he said, though adding, “We’re going to work very closely with N.Y.U. Her line has been, ‘ “New York University” — it should be in New York, not just in the Village.’ She’s committed to the community garden, for sure, on LaGuardia.” But Chin is holding off on giving her full opinion — just as Council Speaker Christine Quinn always does — until the actual vote in the Council. Although Borough President Scott Stringer, for one, has publicly stated he’s concerned about overdevelopment on N.Y.U.’s South Village superblocks, Itzkowitz noted the B.P.’s role in ULURP is only advisory. On the other hand, the Council’s vote is the final step in the process and is binding.
Cliff Street mosque
A Downtown prayer space for Muslims has switched locations. The mosque, now at 30 Cliff Street, was previously located in the basement of 2020 Club, a night club at 20 Warren Street.
“It’s not a proper place for prayer,” said Wolodymyr Starosolsky of the former location. Starosolsky is an attorney for the principal investor of Park51 who has recently talked to the mosque’s Reverend Imam Mustafa about the move. “[The Imam] was adamant about [finding] a proper location for the place in the area.”
Starosolsky said the mosque moved to its new Cliff Street home three weeks ago, after the building was put up for sale. “There are two Irish bars on both sides of the place – they haven’t gotten away from the bar thing, but at least it’s not in the same building,” he said.
Starosolsky said that Imam Mustafa’s mosque has no relation to the Park51 project. The Imam was not available for comment in press time.
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