All you have to do is look up in the air towards the East River, and it’s fairly obvious that Gouverneur Hospital’s new building on Madison Street is already making its mark on the Lower East Side skyline. But yesterday, I got the chance to check out the progress of the enormous $180 million undertaking from the inside. There was a press conference in the afternoon to kick off Gouverneur’s 125th anniversary celebration. But beforehand, Mendel Hagler, the hospital’s energetic executive director, led a few us us on a fascinating “hard hat” tour of the work site.
The modernization project, which began in 2008, will transform the existing building and add a gleaming 108,000 sq./ft. tower. The current ambulatory care facility (encompassing all out-patient services) will become the Center for Community Health and Wellness. The nursing facility will be known as the Residence at Gouverneur Court. There will be 85 additional beds in the nursing tower, a new state of the art surgery center, an on site dialysis center and CT scanner and a 30,000 sq/ft. Women & Children’s Center.
This project – being completed during a brutal economic recession – has faced its fair share of setbacks. But Hagler said New York’s Health & Hospitals Corp., has stepped up — diverting millions of dollars to Gouverneur — ensuring the modernization’s completion next year.
Hagler, a lifetime Lower East Side resident, is passionate about Gouverneur’s place in the community. From the day it opened in 1885, the hospital has been serving an amazingly diverse population. Every year, Gouverneur loses $25 million providing care to uninsured people who have no other place to turn. But the hospital goes well beyond the basics. Specialty services include (among many others) pre-natal care, rehabilitation, wellness and dental.
The neighborhood is, of course, changing, although not as dramatically as some people would have you believe. Hagler takes a lot of pride in Gouverneur’s unique commitment to treating residents from all walks of life. Modernization will only increase its ability to provide high quality care to anyone who walks through the front door, he said.
During yesterday’s tour, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez saw first-hand how the facility is coming together. A lot of emphasis has been placed on making the building as inviting and open as possible. There’s lots of natural light in all of the nursing rooms and common areas. Even in the old building, they’re carving into brick walls to create larger windows. The point, Hagler said, is to create a hospital that doesn’t feel like a hospital.
On the 13th floor, the former cafeteria and kitchen have been completely gutted to make room for patient rooms. A lot of space has been set aside for preventive care. There will be expanded exercise rooms and a nutritional center. A rooftop garden offers spectacular views of Lower Manhattan. Hagler said the city’s purchasing power has enabled contractors to buy the best furnishings and design accessories. “It will be much nicer than my apartment,” he joked.
When not overseeing this huge modernization project and running a major hospital, Hagler is hard at work raising money for parts of the facility not already budgeted. During the press conference, he thanked Rep. Velazquez and all of the elected representatives on the Lower East Side for making sure city, state and federal funding is flowing to Gouverneur. Velazquez said she was committed to making sure the hospital remains a high priority in Washington.
Meanwhile, Gouverneur is getting ready for its 11th Annual Fundraising Gala September 15th. Velazquez, Councilmember Margaret Chin, the Fukien Benevolent Association and Gouverneur benefactor Shou Jun Li will be honored.
Hagler said he’s hopeful parts of the new facility will open next April, although the project is not slated for completion until the winter of 2012.
If you would like more information about Gouverneur’s services, visit their web site.