Fred Mogul, Reporter, WNYC News
Fred Mogul has been covering healthcare and medicine for WNYC since 2002.
Residents of a Roosevelt Island nursing home and rehabilitation center, as well as neighborhood locals, are concerned about their fate as the city moves forward with plans to build a new high tech campus on the island.
Goldwater Hospital, which sits in the footprint of the proposed Cornell-Technion complex, was slated to close, anyway, but Cynthia Rudder of the Long Term Care Community Coalition said the announcement Monday that Roosevelt Island will be the site of a new Cornell facility is adding to the apprehension.
“There’s very limited housing for residents of nursing homes like this who can live in the community,” Rudder said. “What’s going to happen to them?”
Goldwater is slated to be closed by the end of 2013. It’s not clear when construction would begin on Cornell and Technion University’s proposed high-tech complex, which still needs various city and state approvals.
About 365 of Goldwater Hospital’s almost 900 residents will go to North General Hospital in central Harlem. It was shut as a hospital last year but is in the process of being overhauled and reopened as the new Goldwater North.
That would leave more than 500 current Goldwater residents without homes.
“They feel they’re going to be discharged to the streets, to a shelter, to an SRO – a standing room only,” Rudder said.
The Health and Hospitals Corporation said some of them will be placed in one of four public facilities in the HHC network – including Coler Hospital, on the northern half of Roosevelt Island.
But HHC spokeswoman Evelyn Hernandez said about 300 of them will be placed in non-institutional settings in the community, some of them receiving subsidized apartments.
“We have also been working with a myriad of supportive housing providers, community-based organizations, the patients/residents and their families to secure appropriate community housing,” Hernandez said via email.
Roosevelt Island residents also had mixed feelings about their new neighbor. Many pointed out that the feel of the Island has been changing in recent years with luxury buildings popping up.
Olivia Callender, 22, who grew up on Roosevelt Island, was unhappy with the news, fearing it will turn the Island into a college town.
“In my mind most of the people who would be going to that school would not be from the Island. I don’t think kids that I knew or grew up with would be able to afford, even with scholarships, that school,” she said.
But, Dick Lutz, editor of the local newspaper, The Main Street Wire, was excited to see what the new campus would do for the surrounding community and whether it would integrate or become an island within an island. “We are eager that it not be a separate and distinct community that has no relation to the island community as a whole,” Lutz said.
Judith Berdy, president of the Roosevelt Historical Society, said she also doesn’t think a college campus will be disruptive. She said she believes most people coming would be serious professionals working towards their masters or PhD.
Residents main concerns were about traffic entering and leaving the island. The Mayor’s office said the city won’t break ground on the project until they do a full land review process where residents and city official can go over any concerns they have. Ground breaking is scheduled for 2017.
Claudia Morrel contributed to this report.