Unnoticed amid all the breathless salutes to Tough Guy David Paterson, who is supposedly standing up to legislative extravagance, was a press release the governor put out yesterday. It announced a rescue plan for North General Hospital, a sponge for millions in special state financing that once employed Paterson’s wife Michelle and retained his father Basil as its outside lobbyist.
The same governor who turned off the tubes at St. Vincent’s Hospital a couple of months ago, shutting down a centerpiece of Village life, is putting his old Harlem district on a very expensive respirator.
The same governor who is grabbing great praise for defunding every legislative member item — all of which are indiscriminately characterized as “pork” by Paterson, his ally Andrew Cuomo, and the press — did not even put a price tag on the North General deal in an elaborate release filled with quotes from Charlie Rangel and others about how grand it was. When Paterson was the Democratic leader of the Senate, he pledged $650,000 of his own member items to the hospital and set up a meeting for his wife with Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver. She was then the $70,000-a-year lobbyist for North General.
North General has been a state basket case ever since the Dormitory Authority financed its construction decades ago, celebrating it as the only black-owned, for-profit hospital in New York. The Paterson administration has been making loans to North General so it can repay its private bondholders even while the hospital has failed to repay $59 million in delinquent principal and interest that it owes the state. It just filed for bankruptcy, $200 million in debt, and the state is unlikely to ever see much of the $117 million it loaned the hospital.
The Paterson deal allowed the North General board to pick the health care provider that will replace it, the Institute for Family Health, which will open a “Super Urban” Federally Qualified Health Care clinic in the North General building a year from now, as the hospital closes. Paterson is designating Dormitory Authority and other funding to build what the release calls “a new, state-of-the-art facility” in the hospital’s annex. Reverend Calvin Butts, the chair of the hospital board, called the conversion “seamless,” praising the Urgicare clinic that will provide emergency and other services to 80,000 people.
Shortly after Michelle Paterson left the hospital, it retained Meyer Suozzi English, the Long Island law firm where the governor’s father, Basil Paterson, is a partner, as its lobbyist. When David Paterson became governor in 2008 and the New York Times reported on his family ties to the hospital, his father’s firm stopped filing as North General’s registered lobbyist.
Research assistance: Nicole Maffeo and Jenny Tai