Assembly Member Epstein Hosts Townhall to Discuss Community Issues

Assembly Member Epstein convened meeting with leaders and constituents to fight the closing of Mount Sinai Beth Israel, stand up for housing justice, promote public safety, and educate constituents on the SPARC Life Sciences Hub Proposal in Kips Bay

New York, NY–– Assembly Member Harvey Epstein hosted a town hall on Thursday, January 18th to discuss four major issues facing Lower Manhattan: the proposed closure of Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital, the affordable housing crisis, the proposed SPARC life sciences hub in Kips Bay, and public safety. Approximately 100 people were in attendance, including District Attorney Alvin Bragg, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, and Councilmember Carlina Rivera.

There were 4 informative panels featuring guests from a variety of perspectives including elected office, community organizations, and activists. The first panel focused on the proposed life sciences hub on 1st Avenue and 25th Street. The plan for this space includes demolishing Hunter College dorms and building a large commercial development that will change the character of that part of our neighborhood. Attendees had the opportunity to provide input on this project and hear from Hunter College staff and students, NYC Economic Development, and Taconic Partners about how the proposal will impact our community.

Team Harvey also hosted a session on the housing affordability crisis. Participants discussed strengthening rent laws, passing Good Cause Eviction, and legalizing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), including basement and cellar apartments. Additionally, there was a session on public safety which addressed the big question “How do we improve public safety in our neighborhood?”. Finally, the town hall concluded with a session on the fight to save Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital.

Mount Sinai Beth Israel Panelists:

“The Lower Manhattan community really values Beth Israel Medical Center as an important institution, and it’s a shame that Mount Sinai Health System has pillaged it for years and has now chosen to walk away from its commitment to serve us, rather than investing in Beth Israel’s historic mission and figuring out how to make it all work,” said Mark Hannay, Director of Metro New York Health Care for All, and a longtime resident of the East Village. “We in the Save Beth Israel and New York Eye and Ear campaign appreciate the leadership shown by our local elected officials on this crisis, spearheaded by Assemblymember Epstein, as we work together to make sure that Gov. Hochul and State Health Commissioner McDonald don’t allow Lower Manhattan to become another ‘hospital desert’ in New York City.”

“Lower Manhattan already is seriously lacking in hospital capacity and cannot afford to lose Beth Israel. More than 850 Lower Manhattan residents have responded to a survey by the Community Coalition to Save Beth Israel, expressing alarm at the prospect of closing Beth Israel, which they regard as their community hospital. Low-income people, people with disabilities, and frail elderly are especially fearful about the prospect of losing the Beth Israel emergency department, where many have sought treatment repeatedly. Already overcrowded emergency departments at Bellevue and NYU Langone will become even worse, lower Manhattan residents warned,” said Lois J. Uttley, Co-founder of Community Voices for Health System Accountability.

"The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary is the oldest specialty hospital in the Western Hemisphere. For hundreds of years, we served the poorest and most needy patients with the highest quality care. Since our merger with Mount Sinai in 2013, we have seen a steady and deliberate drain of talent and services from our institution. We are a shell of what we used to be.

ORs are closed. Sections of the hospital are empty. We refuse and will not let Mount Sinai execute the same plan they did with Beth Israel. When reviewing their financial records, it is clear that Mount Sinai has neglected both Beth Israel and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and favors their uptown campuses. The most effective and strong leaders engage with vital stakeholders to carve a viable path forward. Mount Sinai has ignored vital stakeholders at Beth Israel and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary Because of this, their plans will fail. We ask Mount Sinai to engage with vital stakeholders and find a way to restore these institutions which have served their communities for so long and so well," said Dr. Paul Lee, President, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary Alumni Association & Co-Founder of Save NYEE.

“The scheduled closure of Mount Sinai Beth Israel and the potential closure of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary presents extreme hardship and violation to healthcare access for people with disabilities living in New York City. People with disabilities are living below the poverty lines and access to community-based healthcare facilities is critical for maintaining one’s physical and mental healthcare. CIDNY supports every effort to keep these institutions open to save the lives of all people living in New York City,” said Sharon McLennon Wier, Ph.D., MSEd., CRC, LMHC, Executive Director for the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY).

Housing Justice Panelists

"With evictions and homelessness soaring and over half of New Yorkers rent-burdened, it's important to take strong action to address the housing crisis. We need Good Cause eviction protections, the Housing Access Voucher Program, an end to warehousing of affordable apartments, and much more to protect renters," said Jodie Leidecker, organizer with Cooper Square Committee.

"Charity begins at home, so does activism,” said Sujoy Krishna, Housing Counselor at Chhaya Community Development Corporation. “The housing affordability crisis in New York City requires a combination of legislative measures, innovative policies, and most importantly community organizing to ensure a sustainable and equitable housing future."

SPARC Panelists

"The Science Park and Research Center will bring much-needed jobs and economic benefits to New York City and enhance its reputation for health sciences, but the community's concerns must be heard and its needs met for the project to succeed," said Susan Steinberg, president of the Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association.

“Just over a year ago, NYCEDC and Mayor Adams announced the vision for SPARC Kips Bay, a transformative project that will cement New York City as the global leader in the life sciences industry while building a more vibrant and inclusive economy,” said New York City Economic

Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President & CEO Andrew Kimball. “With the release of the master plan, the formation of the SPARC Kips Bay Community Task Force and the Education, Training, and Workforce Development Task Force, and the release of the design RFP, we are taking a major step forward in turning vision to reality by building a unique campus and ecosystem connecting DOE high school students as well as CUNY graduate and undergraduate students with the jobs of today and the future, in a high-wage high-growth sector. This project will not only generate an enormous economic impact, create tens of thousands of jobs, update outdated city agency buildings, and create an industry pipeline for New Yorkers, but it will also bring dramatic improvements to the public realm in Kips Bay. I thank Assemblymember Epstein for holding this town hall tonight to bring awareness to important community projects like SPARC.”

Public Safety Panelists

“Public safety is our number one goal, and I’m grateful to Assembly Member Harvey Epstein for giving me the opportunity to share my Office’s priorities and initiatives with our fellow New Yorkers at his town hall. We discussed the ways in which we are driving down gun violence, combatting hate crimes, and addressing the mental health crisis in Manhattan. The Deputy Chief of our Trial Division also spoke about how we maximize both safety and fairness and the ways we are working hand-in-hand with our communities and other partners,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Jr.

Elected Officials

“Speaking with constituents is an immensely rewarding aspect of my job,” said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein. “Our annual town hall allows me the opportunity to collaborate with constituents and community leaders to discuss issues that matter. I am proud to serve Assembly District 74 each and every day.”

“I am happy to have the opportunity to join Assemblymember Epstein and the residents of the 74th Assembly District at this town hall meeting! New Yorkers are facing numerous challenges right now, including the struggle for stable, safe, affordable, and accessible housing – which I’m particularly focused on as the Senate Housing Chair – climate change and other major environmental threats, and public safety concerns. This is a moment that requires New Yorkers to come together, support one another, and think critically about how we move forward. Forums like this play an important role in our planning for the future. I thank Assemblymember Epstein for convening us tonight,” said Senator Brian Kavanagh, who represents Lower Manhattan.

“The East Side consists of dynamic communities that continue to be unique and inviting places to live, work, and play. We share a legacy of activism that advances social justice and well-being, and our neighbors know how important their voices are to democracy. I look forward to a

continued partnership with Assembly Member Epstein in service of the community we love,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-02).