Norman Siegel, Esq. - Testimony at Press Conference March 10, 2012
Text of Mr. Siegel's prepared remarks :
I am here today to support members of Manhattan's West Side and the Greenwich Village and Chelsea community, who want and need a full service Trauma 1 hospital in their community. I also speak out in strong opposition to what occurred on Tuesday March 6 at the Public Hearing concerning the current plan for the St. Vincent's site.
First and foremost, residents of Manhattan's West Side need a hospital that is adequately accessible to its residents. Eliminating St. Vincent's Hospital and replacing it with 450 luxury condos creates a healthcare crisis for residents and visitors alike. For example, it is not adequate that if you need immediate emergency care that you must go to Beth Israel on the East Side or St. Luke's Roosevelt on West 59th Street. Residents need a full service hospital here on 12th Street and Seventh Avenue and not a two bed facility! I urge all our elected officials to stand with the community in calling for a Greenwich Village hospital. This is a not only a Manhattan West Side issue - it is a New York City issue. If the City can transform a 350 bed hospital site into luxury housing here in this community it will create a precedent that will lead to the elimination of other community hospitals. We must oppose this here and now.
Second and very troubling is how the hearing was conducted. Shame on the City Council and the Speaker. Scheduling a hearing in a room at 250 Broadway that holds 40 people when you should have anticipated a large turnout is not only wrong but suspect. And even if you did not anticipate a turnout of 200 - 300 people you should have. Hundreds of people waited in the cold wanting to testify. At that time you should have moved the hearing to the City Council Chamber which could have accommodated ten times more people. According to records, alternative spaces were available.
To have residents, many of whom were senior citizens, wait for hours in the cold to gain access to a public hearing is cruel and undemocratic. The right of the public to fully participate in a public hearing of public concern is a cornerstone of a democratic society. To deny this right is not what NYC's governing body should be about.
Reportedly, letting the Rudin spokespersons in and not allowing the opponents in on an equal basis is also wrong, undemocratic and suspect. Public discourse must take place on an equal playing field. The City Council, at a public hearing stage, must be fair and provide all opponents an equal opportunity to present their views. This was not done last Tuesday. Last Tuesday, unfortunately, was unequal and favored one party to this controversy over another. Rudin's spokespeople went first and the room was filled with all of Rudin supporters. The opponents followed. Rudin's spokespeople had all members of the committee present to hear their position. By the time the opponents spoke there were only two or three out of the 11 council members or their representative present. Not fair. Wrong. Suspect. This is not what democracy looks like.
What happened on Tuesday March 6 requires:
1. An investigation by the Mayor's office to establish whether this hearing was conducted in error by oversight and lack of appropriate planning or by a biased intentional design?
2. Public statements by City Council members and any and all candidates wanting to run for Mayor in 2013 as to where they stand on (a) the St. Vincent's controversy and (b) what happened on Tuesday, March 6. We, the voters, need information so we can hold officials accountable.
3. A public apology by the City Council and its leaders to those who attempted to participate in last Tuesday's error filled public hearing.