Preserve Harlem's History

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The New York City Department of Health and Hospitals has unilaterally decided to DEMOLISH CERTAIN HISTORIC HARLEM HOSPITAL BUILDINGS and replace them with the new location of the city's PUBLIC HEALTH LABORATORY , which will also include an infectious disease testing laboratory.

While the greater Harlem Community doesn't object to such lab, this decision was made without proper community input. And that denial of due process, the greater Harlem Community does object to.

Moreover, the Greater Harlem Community is very concerned with brick and mortar historic resources and feel that the demolition of these buildings would be helping to diminish the recordation of and connection to very important Harlem and World history.   

Background

Harlem Hospital Center has provided health care services to the residents of Harlem for 120 years. The Hospital opened in 1887 in a Victorian mansion located at the juncture of East 120th Street and the East River. The Hospital assumed its present site on the east side of Lenox Avenue between 136th Street and 137th Street in 1907.

The architect Joseph Freedlander, one of the first Americans to attend the prestigious Écoles des Beaux Arts in Paris and graduated in 1895, designed the Lenox Avenue location, which the 1907 building and its extension (1915) have since been destroyed. 

(Beaux Arts was a distinctive design style that embellished classical revival architecture with lavish and ornate details. The Écoles des Beaux Arts was considered as one of the superior fine arts schools in the world, at the time, and its artistic influences spanned from the early 19th century until the mid-1930s. Freedlander continued designing some of the other add-ons of Harlem Hospital (Twin extension - 1915; Nurses' Residence - 1915; Ambulance Station -1915; and Women's Pavilion - 1935). Freedlander also designed the Museum of the City of New York.). 

Since this modest beginning, the Hospital completed several major expansion projects designed to accommodate a rapidly increasing population and changing community health care needs. They include: A twin extension of the 1907 building in 1915. The Nurses Residence in 1915. The Women's Pavilion in 1935; the Pediatrics building in 1944; and the Kountz Pavilion in 1959. In 1960 Harlem Hospital expanded its southern boundaries to 135th Street.  In 1969 the 1907 and 1915 buildings, including all of their added extensions, were torn down, replacing it with the Martin Luther King Pavilion.

The Hospital's Campus Modernization Project included the demolition of the Pediatrics building and the New Nurses' Residence. The Hospital's current campus modernization plans include the demolition of the Old Nurses' Residence , the Ambulance Station , the Power House and Women's Pavilion . (THE WP BUILDING BECAME THE HOSPITAL'S NEW ADMINISTRATIVE BUILDING, WHICH IS WHY IT CONTAINED THE MURALS AND THE PINE-PANELED BOARD ROOM AND THE OCTAGONAL DOCTORS 'DINNING-ROOM WITH A FIREPLACE.)

The current modernization plan never properly involved the Harlem community. By this we mean, (They) failed to give the public notice of what it is (they) want to do and give the community an adequate place and time to be heard. Preserve Harlem's Legacy , Save Harlem , Save Harlem Now , Harlem Preservation Society and many other historic preservation organizations see this omission as a major blunder. In a rush to demolish these structures, it could be that Harlem's first ambulance station, but certainly Harlem's, if not the city's, state's or world's, oldest ambulance station will be destroyed. 

Why - The importance of these buildings

Historically, Harlem Hospital Center has provided a training ground for African American Physicians and Nurses. The achievements of these clinicians have paved a way for excellence in Medicine and Health Care. In 1919, Dr. Louis T. Wright was not only the first African-American physician on staff at Harlem Hospital Center, but the first in any city hospital. Dr. Wright originated the intradermal method for smallpox vaccination, and was the first physician to experiment with antibiotics Aureomycin and Terramycin.

Because of refusal of the City Hospitals to accept Black Nurses, this resulted in Harlem Hospital opening its School of Nursing School in January, 1923. The school continued to train nurses until its closing in June, 1977. Thus, the Nurses' Residence became the first nurses' residence in New York City  for the City's Black Nurses and nursing students. Tearing this historic site down helps to hide this piece of history.

Dr. John Cordice and Dr. Aubre Maynard, master heart surgeons at Harlem Hospital, used the thoracic surgical procedure developed by Dr. Maynard to save Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life in 1958, when the civil rights activist suffered a stab wound to the chest while visiting Harlem and nearly died.

Recent research and a thorough investigation have revealed that Dr. King was brought into the emergency room which was located in the Women's Pavilion back in the 50's where other life saving precautions were taken. According to his nurse anesthesist, Goldie Brangman, it was quite a while before King would be operated on because the governor at the time wanted to move King to a hospital he believed was more reputable.

Our logic says, if the building where he was stabbed in (Blumstein's Department Store, now Touro College School of Pharmacy and Osteopathic Medicine, located on W. 125th Street in Harlem) can be preserved, why not the building where his life was cared for in be preserved? The same goes for the first Nurses' Residence for the City's Black nursing students and nurses and the oldest ambulance station.

However, it appears that when it comes to the Harlem Community's Cultural and Historical sites there is no regard for them, which such destructions of these brick and mortar relics in our view are the equivalent of war crimes.

We therefore petition the New York City Department of Health and Hospitals, Mayor Bill de Blasio and all those other city officials charged with making this decision for Harlem Hospital, for a redress in this matter and demand that they cease and desist with these demolition plans until a proper public forum is conducted and the Harlem Community's Historic Resources concerns are considered.

This is a matter that requires immediate attention. The demolition preparation has already begun.

 

( edited on 2/21/20 based on newly discovered information.)