Streams

The Revolutionaries Who Rescued a Hospital

Monday, June 02, 2014

Members of the Young Lords marching in the Puerto Rican Parade in June 1970. (Librado Romero/The New York Times/Redux)

In 1970, Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx was one of the worst in the city. The building was falling apart. Children were getting lead poisoning while hospitalized there. There were rats in the emergency room.

"I mean, there was a joke in the neighborhood," said CBS reporter Pablo Guzman, "that if you got stabbed on this side of the street, crawl over to the other side so the ambulance wouldn't take you to Lincoln."

But then came the revolutionaries. 

The Young Lords, a radical Puerto Rican activist group similar to the Black Panthers, decided to take it over one day. Guzman was among them.

And that day changed everything.

 

Special thanks to WNYC archivist, Andy Lanset, Professor Johanna Fernandez, Dr Oliver Fein, Dr Charlotte Phillips, Dr Fitzhugh Mullan, Merlin Chowkwanyun and the Pacifica Radio Archives.

Editors:

Karen Frillmann

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Comments [6]

luz from Brooklyn

Someone had to speak out and take a stand. those that came to NY during the 50's did not experience the same economic prosperity as previous groups. The conditions in the cities were deplorable and rendered those living in poverty invisible. The Young Lords took a stand, and by doing so shed light on the horrible conditions in Lincoln Hospital. At some point we have become complacent and prefer not to see the hunger, poverty and homelessness that persist in this rich city. Where have all the organizers gone?

Jun. 03 2014 06:47 PM
w from new york, ny

It is really offensive that you are blaming the socioeconomic conditions of the south bronx in this era on a specific group of people. read your history. the south bronx was created as such by a number of policies, and a poorly designed highway, and this continues today. industries pollute the south bronx, kids suffer from high degrees of asthma and communities are not invested in. poverty is not the fault of a group of people; it's the result of a complex web of systemic issues.

Jun. 03 2014 09:24 AM
w from new york, ny

It is really offensive that you are blaming the socioeconomic conditions of the south bronx in this era on a specific group of people. read your history. the south bronx was created as such by a number of policies, and a poorly designed highway, and this continues today. industries pollute the south bronx, kids suffer from high degrees of asthma and communities are not invested in. poverty is not the fault of a group of people; it's the result of a complex web of systemic issues.

Jun. 03 2014 09:17 AM
Toni from NY

I grew up on 159 an Brook in the late 1950's & 60's and saw the influx of the new culture as well clash of the new and old. It wasn't pretty. Decay, victimization, crime, not celebrations of multiculturalism and diversity accompanied this change. Perhaps it was a new group trying to wrest control of some territory for themselves and some established groups trying to maintain control, but this is a type of human conflict we see all over the world.Let's at least begin to be honest about it. The Lords were nobody's heroes.

Jun. 03 2014 08:08 AM

Imagine today's geeks, nerds and hipsters (or Bronx Puerto Ricans!)

kicking @ss in the names of affordable health care, decent housing, respectable education and clean water, air, food…

Imagine…

Jun. 02 2014 12:07 PM

Strange. The "rat infested" conditions in the Bronx did not come about completely out of nowhere. The slum and ghetto conditions of that Puerto Rican vicinity was because of the irresponsible lifestyles of the residents.
Who am I to say this? I would say I have certain leeway. I lived my entire life in Hell's Kitchen NYC and I mean since the 60s when it was the mecca of immigrants from Puerto Rico. My parents were from Puerto Rico as were my grandparents and probably great-grandparents. I saw first hand that a majority of that community threw their garbage in the streets, had more kids than they could afford to care for, and generally brought the tribal culture of gang violence and social dysfunction. Don't tell me that there were Italian gangs that preceded it or "invented" it. These Puerto Ricans made it worse.
This sounds like a story of an undeserving community getting their way by mob rule. It was about a consensus of people having a sense of over- entitlement to solutions (paid by taxpayers or the government) to problems that they themselves created.
Hell's Kitchen has improved in it's social and economic climate, though not completely and it has a lot to do with the fact that bodegas got taken over by stores which are owned or run by persons of Indian and Arabic backgrounds. Also in a rather odd twist, the gay community has even brought in a certain economic prosperity.

I find it horrible that this story of the Young Lords "transforming" a hospital is put in the context of justice.
It is one of many stains on the recent history of the city.
I don't see how the "good" that came about because of the Young Lords' standoff could not have been brought about in a more civilized way that does not glorify the culture of gangs and present Puerto Ricans and other minorities as blameless, pure victims of white society.

Jun. 02 2014 09:12 AM

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