Volume 17, Number 40 | February 25 - March 3, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Chiropractor Gary Haber is hoping to keep his Corbin Building office, but the M.T.A.’s plan is to move commercial tenants out to build a new train center under the John St. offices.

Chiropractor wary of forced move for train center

By Angela Benfield

When Antoinette Gragnano, a gregarious elderly woman, was looking for a chiropractor, she needed someone close by. Gragnano, who has lived in Lower Manhattan for all of her life, got a referral from a friend to try Dr. Haber, whose Financial District chiropractic office is located in the Corbin building on Broadway and John St. With her home being just a stone’s throw away on Park Row, she gave him a try.

“I liked him right away because he did what I asked him to do,” Gragnano says. “Now, I feel wonderful.”

For the past six years, Gragnanohas been getting adjustments there. Perky and independent, she likes to keep busy, but getting around is not that easy sometimes. “I’m 80 years old, and I can’t travel too much, so I’m glad that he’s very close,” she says of Gary Haber. The brief walk has made her visits possible, and the chiropractic care has become a necessity for her. “I’ve become really dependent on him,” she adds.

Unfortunately, Gragnanomay not be able to continue to get these treatments.

“We are going to be displaced,” says Haber, who has a doctorate in chiropractic care. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority released its final environmental impact statement on the $750 million Fulton Transit Center in December, and more than 40 tenants of the Corbin building will have to move by November of this year. “I don’t like the idea, it’s like getting booted out of your own home,” he adds.

Using the eminent domain law, the M.T.A. is purchasing the Corbin Building at an estimated $50 million. It will be the cornerstone of the new transit center, and the building’s exterior will be restored during the transition. The arches of the building will be converted into grand entryways, and an escalator leading from street level into the subway station will be installed.

But, the M.T.A. is also claiming the upper floors of the building as well as the space needed for the transit hub. Once the building is renovated and the transit center is complete, they can rent out the offices above market value.

“Why aren’t we being offered the ability to return to the space?” Haber says. This news came as a real blow to him. Haber also lives in Lower Manhattan and was dedicated to staying and rebuilding his business after 9/11. “I’ve been down here for a long time; there’s thousands of people I met here over the years and I don’t want to go,” he adds.

“He’s a staple in the neighborhood,” says Nadege Bazin, a massage therapist who shares space in his office. “If we didn’t have to move, we’d stay there forever,” she adds.

Haber, president of the New York State Chiropractic Association, has been a tenant of the Corbin Building for close to 15 years. He feels it is unnecessary to relocate when his office is on the sixth floor of the building, and the transit center will be at street level and below ground. “Some proposals would have let us remain in the building, which of course, is what we were hoping for,” he says.

His Downtown location and the many types of treatments he has available are what has attracted Haber’s patients over the years. In addition to chiropractic care and massage therapy, there is also an acupuncturist on staff.

“I had a good feeling when I came to this place,” says Jeanette Kim, the acupuncturist. “It’s devastating [to move] because we put a lot of work into it,”

Although the M.T.A. is required to find Haber a new space, he is worried that he will not be able to keep up the “goodwill” he has built with his patients over the years. The moving itself will take time away from his practice, and the new location may not have the same convenience and quality as his office in the Corbin Building. However, he tries to remain optimistic. “Hopefully, they’ll find a space within a few blocks and we won’t skip a beat,” he adds.

“I hope he stays in the neighborhood,” Gragnano says. “If he had to move too far, I couldn’t go anymore,” she adds.

“The Fulton Street Transit Center is going to be a great thing for the community, but there’s always going to be winners and losers,” Haber says. “We hope that we come out of this okay.”

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