Date: 8/3/2005 11:05:41 AM Eastern Daylight Time
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Harlem residents anxious over fate of clinic
BY CURTIS L. TAYLOR
August 3, 2005
A popular West Harlem health clinic closed for renovations may remain shut permanently as the city's health commissioner considers options for the space, including a program operated by Columbia University to serve HIV-infected youth, officials said.
The Manhattanville Health Clinic at 21 Old Broadway, operated by the Health Department, was to reopen this year after $3.7 million in exterior renovations.
But much to the dismay of many in the community, Thomas Frieden, the commissioner of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said in a recent letter to Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields that he was considering the Columbia proposal. He also cited the possibility of bringing back the federally funded Women, Infants and Children and methadone maintenance programs previously housed in the building.
Randee Sacks, a spokesman for Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, said the university has had only preliminary talks with the city.
"Of course, there may well be other programs which would be appropriate to locate in this space," Frieden said in a July 15 letter responding to Fields about the clinic's status. "The department is committed to supporting health services that best fit the needs of this community."
The clinic was closed in 2001, but another one, which does not offer as many services as at Manhattanville, was later opened across the street at the Grant Houses public housing development. Discussions are ongoing about whether this second clinic, operated by the city's Health and Hospitals Corp., will remain open.
Judy Wessler of the Commission on the Public's Health System, a nonprofit community-based health advocacy organization, criticized Frieden for reneging on promises to reopen the popular free clinic, which served uninsured children and immigrant families.
"I am astounded that [the] city health commissioner is so disrespectful to the West Harlem community, which fought for and got the Manhattanville Health Center fixed up," she said.
Carmen Perez, chairwoman of the health and environmental committee for Community Board 9, said the Manhattanville clinic has played an important role for decades.
"There were long lines, with immigrants waiting to have their children inoculated, especially at this time of year right before school," Perez said. "The community is upset."
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