St. Vincent's Hospital in NYC closes, nearby businesses fear same fate

Yeony Kim, owner of Bethel Gourmet FoodYeong Kim is neither doctor, nurse nor patient, but she still considers Friday's closure of New York City's venerable St. Vincent's Hospital devastating.

Kim owns Bethel Gourmet Food, one of the nearby businesses that depends on traffic from the hospital. As St. Vincent's -- known for treating AIDS patients and victims of the 9-11 attacks -- lurched through its death throes Thursday because of a billion-dollar debt, some merchants feared they may die with it.

"This is bad," Kim said. "We are open 24 hours -- and nothing."

At Jesse's Express Sandwich Shop across the street, co-owner Casey, who would not give his last name, scanned his near-empty joint at 2:15 p.m. and said of his chances to survive, "It's too late now." Casey said he has considered cinching in his space and letting go of employees.

Kim, whose catty-corner bodega location made it ideal for ambulance drivers and late-shift workers to grab a coffee, a candy bar or pack of smokes, said she and her husband might start closing at 10 p.m. It would be the first time in 15 years that the bodega has shut its doors. "I don't even have the security gate," she said, referring to the rolling fence that city shopkeepers scroll down as off-hours protection.

Two Boots Pizza manager Efrain Aquino said business already was down 6 percent. He now passes out 10%-off and "two slices and a Coke for $5" flyers to nearby merchants to attract new business.

"It's going to hurt a little," Aquino said, adding that he already had been dealing with St. Vincent's gradual shuttering over the past year. The final blow would not come as too big a shock, he said. On Friday, New York City's last Catholic hospital was expected to empty its beds completely and shut down.

At Bone Lick Park barbecue across the street, nine diners tucked into their ribs and sandwiches. All were hospital employees, a waiter said. Though not there on Thursday, the priest who gives last rites at the hospital was a regular, too, he added. Manager Adam Santo remained optimistic.

"I don't think that it will affect us too much," he said. "We never catered to the hospital." Santo pointed to a sign trumpeting the all-you-can-eat ribs on Wednesday, explaining that the marketing aimed more in that direction.

The Duane Reade drugstore a half-block away was eerily quiet. Asked how the hospital's closing would affect revenue, a
manager said, "I can't give that information to you."

He didn't need to. His empty pharmacy pretty much spoke for itself.
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