Leaders request south Bronx COVID-19 medical campus

Harlem River Yards, where leaders want a temporary medical facility to go.
Photo courtesy Third Ave BID

While only 20 percent of the borough has COVID-19, it has killed 772 people, more than twice Manhattan.

These numbers, along with the fact that there are only three testing sites at Jacobi Hospital, Baychester Mall in Co-op City and Lehman College, show that the Bronx needs more sites and temporary hospitals.

Elected officials and community leaders saw these alarming stats and took action.

On April 7, several sent a letter to the governor asking for a medical facility, rapid testing, a field hospital, emergency medical personnel and military housing to be created at Harlem River Yards on 8 acres of land. Among those who signed were Assemblyman Michael Blake, Assemblywomen Karines Reye and Latoya Joyner, Senator Luis Sepulveda and Michael Brady, CEO of the Third Avenue Business Improvement District.

Photo by Kasey Rodriguez|Photo by Kasey Rodriguez|Photo by Kasey Rodriguez

Also, on March 30, Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson sent a letter to the city requesting a site in the south Bronx.

“Areas in the north Bronx have been activated with multiple testing centers and field hospitals and have had additional resources allocated to expand testing and COVID-19 emergency care,” Blake said. “The South Bronx has not. We must ensure that decision-making is equitable and protects the most vulnerable among us. That is why we are calling on Governor Cuomo to establish a medical campus at Harlem River Yards – in addition to the plans for the New York EXPO Center.”

The Harlem River Yards is owned by New York and leased to industrial provider, Galesi Group. It is accessed by water, rail and vehicle and is walking distance to one-third of the Bronx’s NYCHA developments.

It is known that all of the hospitals in the five boroughs are struggling to find beds and protective gear, but the Bronx has its own issues. People with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, lung problems or diabetes are prone to becoming sicker should they contract the virus, and high numbers of Bronxites have these underlying health problems.

In order to curb these high death rates it is imperative that the state grant their request, Brady said to the Bronx Times. The Bronx is already known for its high asthma rates, specifically in the south Bronx. If the government doesn’t aid these people, then more will continue to die.

“Why are people in the south Bronx not getting fair treatment?” Brady exclaimed.

“There’s a very loud push today to get this going,” he said.

According to Brady, the governor’s office doesn’t seem wasn’t keen on the idea and prefers to put people at the Jacob Javits Center. There was a scheduled call with them April 8, so hopefully they will change their minds, he commented.

“We cannot let the south Bronx continue to be disenfranchised,” he stressed. “Our neighborhoods are the most vulnerable because of systemic racism – we need to reverse that now and keep our residents, our neighbors alive and healthy.”