Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saudi King Abdullah Proposes Cordoba House Move To West Village?

There hasn't been much action on the Cordoba House proposal since it received approvals from the LPC and Community Board 1, but now comes word that the King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah, is sounding out officials on taking over the now defunct St. Vincent's Hospital in the West Village and building the community center, mosque, and possibly reopening the hospital in some fashion.
A Manhattan lawyer with ties to the Saudi royal family is sounding out officials and community leaders about a plan to move the controversial Ground Zero mosque to the West Village.

Attorney Dudley Gaffin is claiming King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia might want to buy shuttered St. Vincent's Medical Center and transfer the mosque to a new Islamic cultural center he would build on a plot at the site, say sources who have heard Gaffin's pitch.

The king, worth more than $20 billion, would also save the hospital, reopening most of the units that closed when St. Vincent's filed for bankruptcy on April 14, the sources said.

They say that Gaffin, who heads his own firm in lower Manhattan, is floating the idea to gauge what the reaction might be -- and to ready a bid to rival the Rudin Organization, which is trying to snap up St. Vincent's in bankruptcy court with an eye on tearing down six hospital buildings for luxury housing.

"He's asking what it would take to put in a bid," said one community leader who did not want to be identified.
The hospital closed earlier this year because of being massively in debt and unable to reorganize its expenses. The hospital complex in the West Village is some choice land, and real estate developers are hoping to scoop up the property to turn it into luxury housing (and figure 20-30% of the housing units will be deemed affordable housing). The hospital had been trying to redevelop its properties - turning several buildings in to new medical space, while building new housing, but those efforts failed to garner the necessary support and approvals.

If the Cordoba House developers do go in this direction, it would not only result in a community center far from the community where it was originally proposed, but it would no longer touch the nerve of being so close to Ground Zero. The West Village might prefer a new hospital complex to the St. Vincent's reorganization plan. It isn't clear whether the King would outbid the other real estate developers interested in the property.

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