Vacant Spaces Being Brought Back Into Service

Updated: Coler On The Front Line In Handling COVID-19 In New York City

David Stone
Coler welcomed Momo, a comfort dog, earlier this year. It's a place for rehabilitating life and joy.
Coler welcomed Momo, a comfort dog, earlier this year. It's a place for rehabilitating life and joy.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

HHC Coler, long known as Bird S. Coler Hospital, on Roosevelt Island gains new vigor as the city calls on the Rehabilitation Center to open up again as a hospital, helping house the overload of patients expected from COVID-19, the coronavirus. Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement yesterday in a news conference.

Updated, March 20th: According to State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, "Coler Hospital will be making beds available for low acuity patients to make room at other hospitals." In polite terms, that means more traditional nursing home patients will be transferred to Coler, making a more uniform, more easily managed census. 

The situation is very fluid, however, and could change at any time.

Coler Is Ideal For Managing Coronavirus Infections

While decreasing beds, especially nursing home beds in the Health & Hospitals network, the city has greatly reduced Coler's occupancy, converting it into a rehabilitation facility. As a result, according to longtime resident volunteer Judith Berdy, three full floors are now vacant.

That capacity makes Coler ideal for handling a high volume of new patients created by COVID-19. Not only are the spaces immediately available, they need little more than reactivation. The mayor estimated they will be up and running next week.

Note: de Blasio misspoke in saying Coler was vacant. It's never stopped being an active facility, just reduced capacity with a changing mission.

Berdy's Suggestion 

Berdy notes that Coler's current population is now under restrictions for visitors. During this period, she suggests, "send them a Happiness Card to cheer them. Have your kids or yourself make a card to give the residents."

Leave the cards at Berdy's apartment: Rivercross 531 Main Street, Apartment #1704.

Everyone will appreciate it.

"Not in my backyard," Roosevelt Island Edition

As we've seen before, NIMBY activity is alive and well on Roosevelt Island. It only took hours before exaggerated claims and empty concerns surfaced in a band of Twitter operatives. 

This time, it was unique, however, in that our unwelcoming neighbors managed to target a pair of outsiders: both Coler and Cornell Tech got the treatment.


In truth, many residents in Coler do not fit the high risk profile, although some obviously do. But because this is a highly rated, active healthcare facility with numerous safety protocols already in place, their vulnerability is less than in other locations. Roosevelt Island's most vulnerable is probably 546 Main Street, the traditional "seniors building," where because of the high population of elderly and a sizable disabled group living openly without special protocols, risks are high.

Others in her following suggested sending COVID-19 patients to Cornell Tech, a preposterous suggestion, given that there are no medical facilities on the campus. Such a move would require building from scratch.

Although we're getting NIMBY assaults from the usual suspects on Twitter, we're firm in our expectation that the vast majority of Roosevelt Islanders are better than that.

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