By Tara Kyle
BATTERY PARK — A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved the sale of St. Vincent's Hospital Thursday, clearing a major hurdle for a comprehensive care center and 300 apartment development to move into Greenwich Village.
"The court is convinced that the likelihood of an equal or better sale opportunity is slim to none," said Judge Cecelia Morris, nearly a year to the day after St. Vincent's originally filed for Chapter 11.
The ruling paves the way for the Rudin Management Company and North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System to seek city land use and Department of Health approval for the $260 million deal, which includes the conversion of the O'Toole building on Seventh Avenue into a 24/7 free-standing emergency department with no inpatient services.
The Rudin family's willingness to close on the deal prior to zoning and DOH approval contributed to the unanimous support of the creditor's committee, according to creditor's attorney David Botter. That move absolves St. Vincent's of a great deal of risk.
"We're very, very happy," said Michael Dowling, CEO and president of North Shore-LIJ. "This is a transformative moment for the Village."
Bill Rudin, CEO for the management company, said he hoped the development would bring improved economic prospects to the area around St. Vincent's, where more than 30 storefronts are still vacant.
The ruling comes as a blow, however, for members of the Coalition for a New Village Hospital and other community members who wanted to see a full service hospital at the St. Vincent's site.
The new North Shore-LIJ facility would not include overnight beds or have the capacity to admit patients suffering from major trauma, heart attacks and strokes.
Judge Morris overruled two objections seeking a 45-day adjournment in the hopes of finding a buyer who could present another plan.
One of those was filed on behalf of Chelsea's Fulton Houses Tenants Association.
"The residents of the Fulton Houses have been so affected by the closing — some of them literally can't afford going across town," said Miguel Acevedo, president of the Association.
Many uninsured residents who used to access treatment for heart conditions and diabetes through the St. Vincent's emergency room are no longer receiving care, he said.
Lower income Chelsea residents are also concerned about the lack of overnight beds in the proposed new facility, Acevedo said. Family members wishing to spend time with dying relatives are adversely impacted by not having facilities with overnight beds within walking distance.
Gerrie Nussdorf, a 35-year Village resident and psychologist living a block away from the old St. Vincent's site, was dismayed by the decision.
"When I've lived here and there was a full service hospital, it was kind of like having a covenant," said Nussdorf, 60. "Statistically, now that I am in more need of a full service hospital's, it's being yanked away."