Richard J. Sheirer served New York City in Rudolph Giuliani's mayoral administration as the commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management.
His professional background makes his death earlier this year doubly dramatic and poignant. And it might have been avoided if the leaders of the city he served so ably had not let a neighborhood hospital die last year.
While driving to work one morning in January, Sheirer felt chest pains as he reached West 14th Street and 10th Avenue (just five blocks from the old St. Vincent's Hospital). He lost precious time as he was transported to the closest hospital, over a mile further away, where he died of an apparent heart attack.
His death symbolizes the health care crisis that faces lower Manhattan, just 10 years after nearly 3,000 people were killed and over 6,000 others injured when we were attacked on 9/11. We need more hospitals and emergency care facilities in New York, not fewer.
The City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose district includes St. Vincent's, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (both presumptive mayoral contenders in 2013) have done nothing to try to fill the gap formed by the closing of St. Vincent's Hospital in the West Village.
The residents of lower Manhattan want a hospital. Almost 20,000 have signed a petition calling for a facility to replace St. Vincent's. The elderly, worried about meeting Richard Sheirer's sad fate, are afraid. Parents with children with asthma and other ills, worry about not having a nearby emergency room to care for their kids. Those who lived through 9/11 worry about what will happen the next time a devastating accident or attack hits lower Manhattan.
We cannot let our leaders turn their backs on quality health care. Like public education and public safety, access to health care is one of the things we must demand of our city government and its elected leaders.
Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn, Public Advocate DeBlasio and Borough President Stringer: do your job! Bring a hospital and full service emergency room back to the West Village.
Our city can't wait.
Tom Allon, a Democrat and Liberal candidate for Mayor in 2013, lived in the West Village in the 1980s. He is now the President of Manhattan Media.
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