The work to create a $40 million field hospital in Van Cortlandt Park is now on hold.
On April 11, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz announced that he received a call from the contractor who is building the facility in coordination with the Army Corps of Engineers last week saying that they have been told to stop work until the need for beds is clearer.
“I am worried that this decision is premature, but frankly if we don’t need the beds (due to sufficient hospital capacity elsewhere) then I think that would be a major victory in our fight against the pandemic,” Dinowitz said. “However, presuming that the work resumes as more people get sick, I am incredibly proud that our park will be used to help save lives.
“For my entire tenure as your assemblyman, I have fought to protect Van Cortlandt Park. But the lives that could be saved at this location might be those of someone you or I care about, and we should do everything we can to prevent the loss of life.”
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.
Councilman Andrew Cohen is not in favor of the decision to halt the work.
“The decision to stop work on Van Cortlandt Park’s field hospital in the absence of a plan to address the widening gap in access to care does not align with public statements promising more, not less, relief for the hardest-hit communities in the Bronx,” he said on Twitter. “This decision leaves the Bronx, one of the most COVID-19 impacted boroughs, without an emergency care site when the need is greatest and when disparities in healthcare access continue to devastate low-income communities of color.”
As of press time, the Bronx leads all boroughs in COVID-19 deaths, with 1,280 reported as of end of day on April 13. This mortality rate is nearly triple 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.
The initial selection of Parsons did not come 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.