A $40 million contract was awarded to a defense company to construct a field hospital in the third largest park in New York City last week.
On April 3, Parsons Corporation, which is based in Virginia, signed a seven-month contract to build an alternate care site at Van Cortlandt Park. The field hospital is expected to be up and running within three weeks and will provide 200 beds across 12 acres to treat COVID-19 positive patients. Work on the hospital commenced April 4 under the supervision of U.S. Army Corps and FEMA.
As of press time, the Bronx leads all boroughs in COVID-19 deaths, with 987 reported as of end of day on April 9. This mortality rate is nearly triple that of Manhattan.
This is not the first time the park has been used as a medical facility. In 1916, the National Guard used it during tensions with Mexico.
While construction has already started and community members and elected officials are excited, the decision to select Parsons is not without controversy.
In April 2004, Parsons was awarded a $243 million contract to upgrade 17 hospitals located throughout Iraq, design and construct 150 primary healthcare centers (PHC) and repair three ministry buildings in Baghdad.
But, in April 2006, the special inspector general for Iraq audited their progress and discovered that approximately $186 million—about 77 percent—was spent on the PHC project, over a two year period, with little progress made.
On top of that, the Washington Post has reported that Parsons was awarded $1 billion to build churches, hospitals and jails in Iraq, but had made a mess of that as well.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz was not aware about the storied history of Parsons, or even that they were the recipient of the contract, but feels as long they fulfill their obligation and build a safe place, he is on board.
“My immediate priority is the health and safety of my constituents and New Yorkers, so my questions focused on the number of beds and how quickly this would be able to serve our community,” Dinowitz said.
The assemblyman said that while the allegations and controversial past of Parsons worries him, he is more concerned with saving lives.
“Bad contracts are absolutely a problem, but the larger problem in my opinion is that countless people are likely to die because Donald Trump failed to take quick and decisive action to prepare for this pandemic,” Dinowitz said. “Frankly, I am scared every day that I will wake up to another text message or phone call saying that someone I know and loved has died from COVID-19. We all saw this coming, and it didn’t have to be like this. President Obama had a pandemic plan, Donald Trump ignored it and Donald Trump is responsible for whatever lives are lost because of our country’s lack of preparation and inadequate response to the novel coronavirus.”