Holy Hospital! Is Saudi King Abdullah Replacing St. Vincent’s with Park51? [UPDATE: Probably Not]
Matt Chaban Dec. 20, 2010, 9:41 a.m.
It’s the dueling downtown controversies! Which is the bigger deal, the closing of St. Vincent’s hospital or the opening of a “Ground Zero mosque,” the Park51 community center? Put them together and you get the real estate story of the year.
The Post is offering a Hail Mary report about downtown attorney Dudley Gaffin, who claims to be exploring a plan to move Park51 from sorta-kinda Ground Zero to the old St. Vincent’s campus in Greenwich Village. The Islamic community center would fill one of the eight buildings for sale while the others would be turned back into a hospital. The plan is purportedly on behalf of Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, the multi-billionaire head of Saudi Arabia.
“[Gaffin]’s asking what it would take to put in a bid,” said one community leader who did not want to be identified.
“He says the king wants to do this as a p.r. move — to save the hospital and move the mosque away from the World Trade Center site,” the source added. “He wants to show that Muslims can do good works.”
Never mind that the king’s reps could not be reached by the Post and that “no one” in City Hall has heard of the plans, despite claims to the contrary. Also, the challenge of reviving a hospital in the dilapidated facilities is nearly impossible, requiring an expensive and time-consuming redesign and construction.
Still, this would certainly be a more interesting proposition than boring old condos. It looks like the Rudins could be facing some uneexpected competition after all?
UPDATE: The Daily News is reporting that no one has yet contacted the Park51 backers about the St. Vincent’s plan, nor are they particularly interested in it.