Brooklyn pols identify sites to increase hospital capacity

The shuttered House of Detention has been floated as one location to increase hospital bed capacity.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

With over 1,000 New Yorkers currently infected, the spread of the novel coronavirus threatens to overwhelm medical facilities statewide with a swell of patients, leaving hospitals overextended and grasping for resources.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated that the virus will hit its peak in roughly 45 days, on May 1, at which time 37,200 intensive care unit beds will be needed. 

The state currently has only 3,000. 

To make up for the massive deficit, large spaces will need to be set aside for hospital beds. In Brooklyn, local elected officials have started to scope out a few possible sites. 

In a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Cuomo, Borough President Eric Adams identified multiple publicly-owned sites that could provide the space needed to fit thousands of additional beds. 

“Covid—19 cases are growing at an exponential rate and Brooklyn hospitals could reach capacity in a very short period of time,” Adams wrote. “It is imperative that we act now to secure and prepare available spaces before that becomes our new reality.” 

The sites include: 

  • The out-of-use Brooklyn Detention Center on Atlantic Avenue. The jail contains 759 cells, a kitchen and common areas that could facilitate emergency medical supplies. 
  • Public school buildings which have multiple rooms and are closed to students until at least April 20. 
  • The boroughs many armory buildings including the 13th Regiment Armory in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Bedford Atlantic Armory in Crown Heights and the Marcy Avenue Armory in Williamsburg. The Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights is also a possibility if work stops on the long-in-the-works revamp of the structure. 
  • The Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal in Red Hook, a massive structure with wide-open spaces. 
  • And Floyd Bennett Field/Aviator Park in Marine Park, a federally owned former airfield with empty airplane hangers and vast swaths of empty land. 

In addition to these spaces, Coney Island Councilman Mark Treyger announced on Monday that he has been coordinating with the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Department of Emergency Management to repurpose the parking lot of Coney Island’s MCU Park to increase hospital capacity.

Treyger said the aim is to set up a mobile testing site at the minor league ballpark which would assist in directing traffic away from the already overburdened emergency room at Coney Island Hospital. 

“We need to begin planning ahead to assist Coney Island Hospital set up a mobile location away from their emergency room since they’re being inundated with concerned residents rushing to the hospital,” Treyger said. “This joint effort will provide much needed support and combat the transmission of COVID-19.”

The parking lot had previously been repurposed during superstorm Sandy as a camp for volunteers to distribute supplies to storm-stricken Coney Islanders.

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio outlined the city’s intentions to increase hospital capacity, describing the situation as a war-like scenario. “We’re going to have to radically expand our health care facilities in New York City and capacity,” he said.