KIPS BAY — A year after Hurricane Sandy flooded NYU Langone Medical Center, destroying equipment and forcing the hospital to close for nearly two months, a brand-new emergency department is being built with measures to protect against future storms.
The 32-bed emergency facility along the East River, which will have three times the capacity of the current emergency room, will be encircled with flood walls for protection and will have all important equipment moved to a higher level when it opens by April 2014.
“We’ve learned from the experience,” said Paul Schwabacher, senior vice president for medical center facilities management, on a tour of the under-construction facility Thursday. “We’re taking what we learned and taking measures to protect our new buildings.”
The new emergency building will have a separate entrance for ambulances and a pediatric wing.
In addition, NYU Langone is building a $250 million 71,000-square-foot building next to the hospital, which will be exclusively devoted to housing its independent power and backup sources, such as a natural gas power plant that will produce 11 megawatts of additional power for the hospital and all of the steam it needs. The energy building is due to be completed by 2016.
The hospital's backup generators flooded last year, when Sandy flooded the basement and first floors where they were housed.
The medical center also rebuilt its kitchen to replace the one that was damaged in last year's storm. Since then, NYU had been cooking meals for patients in a rooftop trailer, said Kimberly Glassman, senior vice president for patient services and chief nursing officer.
The kitchen, which opened last week, features state-of-the-art equipment that will be used to prepare more than 600,000 meals annually. NYU hopes to open its cafeteria by late next summer.
The construction projects were partly funded by a $180 million contribution from FEMA to help upgrade the hospital after its basement took in 15 million gallons of water during the storm and had to immediately evacuate hundreds of patients, said Schwabacher.
"It's pretty amazing to think that just a year ago we had taken the full brunt of superstorm Sandy," Glassman said. "Everyone has worked really hard to make sure NYU is here for our patients, staff, students and teachers."
NYU Langone’s Neuroscience Institute also took a hit in the storm. Dr. Gordon Fishell’s basement lab, for example, lost 2,500 lab mice in the flood, setting back research by about a year, he said.
Fishell's research team has since replaced 1,000 of the mice, and they are now held in a facility that's higher off the ground, he said.
“Mice are nocturnal,” Fishell said. “It was easier to store them underground in a light-controlled environment, but that doesn’t necessarily require a basement. We’re learning.”