HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR
Assemblymember 71st District
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 568-2828
FAX (212) 928-4177
More than a decade ago I became part of an effort to replace the Polo Grounds health clinic, which had closed many years earlier, by opening a new health center on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Our plan was to make health care available again in the Polo Grounds neighborhood, while also creating more affordable housing in the community.
Working with the not-for-profit Bethany II Housing Development Fund Corp. we intended to rebuild three abandoned apartment buildings on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Bethany would build affordable apartments and I would get additional monies to build a new clinic on the ground floor of one of these buildings. Once the clinic was built, the city's Health and Hospitals Corp. would supply the doctors and run the clinic, as they once did at the Polo Grounds clinic.
Over two years ago the plans were agreed upon, and the program was approved by everyone involved.
But because of the effect of the recession on both the City and State, the Health and Hospitals Corporation's budget was cut and they said that they would have to withdraw from the project. Losing that clinic is the bad news.
The good news is that St. Luke's-Roosevelt had planned and built a similar clinic to serve the community in a brand-new building on the corner of 147th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Borough President Scott Stringer and I recently visited this clinic, took a tour of the center and spoke with the doctors and staff. I was happy to hear that the clinic will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
You may reach them at (212) 690-0303. The office manager is Nadine Blair, who was at the clinic during my visit along with Dr. Gary Burke, Dr. Jessica Petilla and Dr. Jordan Blackwood. I believe that the community will be served well by this newly opened health center. At the same time, the State funding that would have paid to build the Bethany clinic will now be used to make those apartments even more affordable.
Harlem-area health professionals and activists joined local elected officials outside of an East Harlem clinic July 25, 2009 to speak out by request of President Obama in favor of federal health care reform legislation that is under intense debate in Congress which could transform America's health care systems and extend coverage to millions who are uninsured or underinsured.
"We talked about our experience in the community," treating diabetes, heart disease and other ailments which appear in unusually high numbers throughout Northern Manhattan, said Catherine Abate of Community Healthcare Network, which hosted the event. She is shown here between Assemblyman Farrell and Congressman Rangel.
Abate said doctors and patients spoke of their experiences, and the general message was that health care reform could save lines and money because many delay care until they are so sick they must seek treatment in emergency rooms, which are more costly overall than regular preventative care.
Community Healthcare Network's Catherine Abate and Assemblyman Farrell are collaborating on a project, dubbed the Lucille Bulger Center for Community Life, which they have worked on for the last several years along with Community League of the Heights, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center and others. Assemblyman Farrell has been successful in finding state funds -- your tax dollars, in the form of Member Item grants -- to support this project.
Abate said Community Healthcare Network is in the process of moving out of the small Harlem space it has rented for more than 30 years and into a larger-state-of-the-art space nearby which is currently under construction.
To be built on a vacant lot between West 157th and West 158th Streets in Washington Heights, the new building will include a first-floor clinic which will be used by Community Healthcare Network. The building's primary tenant will be Community Health Academy of the Heights, a small college preparatory school focused on health and community care. The Academy will also play a role in providing a network of community services and programs.
Current plans call for construction to begin in 2010 and wrap by early 2012, with the new CHN clinic opening that fall. Please continue to check this page for updates.
The Sept. 18 ceremony marked the latest step in Harlem Hospital's ongoing modernization and continuing campus expansion. The construction plan calls for renovation of 183,000 square feet of existing hospital space plus the construction of another 150,000 square feet of patient care space that will be added to the hospital. The new and renovated space will be used to provide state-of-the-art emergency care including surgery, medical imaging and critical care bed space.
"As almost every part of our economy other than health care has fallen off this year, I am glad to see that a cornerstone of our community's care network like Harlem Hospital is part of that growth," Assemblyman Farrell said.
The expansion project stands in contrast with what may be in store for health care services in the coming years - due to the economic downturn, if new funding from Washington does not arrive, state funding for health care may be cut in the coming year to accommodate for an anticipated falloff in state tax receipts.
When work at Harlem Hospital is complete, probably the most noticeable part of the modernization project will be the demolition of older buildings and the construction of a new Patient Pavilion. The modernization project will connect the Martin Luther King, Jr. Pavilion and the Ronald H. Brown Pavilion, the parking garage and Emergency Medical Services stations, centralizing the hospital into one area.
Harlem Hospital is now in the second year of this five-year modernization project, which is designed to anticipate the health care challenges of the future. These plans will also allow the hospital to adjust to challenges unique to Harlem, such as a number of asthma sufferers who number five times the national average.
On September 17, 2009 a "Topping Out Ceremony" was held at Harlem Hospital Center to celebrate a significant milestone in the construction of the new Patient Pavilion, which is on track to be completed in 2012. This date marked the completion of the building's structure.
A topping ceremony is a tradition in the construction industry and is celebrated when a project's "crown" is placed on the building's highest point. Invited guests signed a white-painted structural steel beam, which also bore an American flag, and watched as a crane hoisted this beam into place atop the 192,000-square-foot, seven-story building.
Guests included Assemblyman Farrell and other state officials, HHC President Alan Aviles, Harlem Hospital Executive Director John M. Palmer, Ph.D. (pictured above right), and others involved in the project.
"It was as much an honor to literally put my name on part of this important project as it was a privilege to help expand the availability of medical services in this community," Assemblyman Farrell said. "I look forward to the day when we come together to open this Patient Pavilion."