Larry's letter in full, after the break.
GMHC BOARD AGREES TO SELL THEIR AIDS CLIENTS DOWN THE RIVER
In a shocking but not unexpected development in the escalating drama of a desperate board and an increasingly hysterical and dictatorial executive director, all of whom appear to have lost sight of what they are placed there to do, the board of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (no longer known by that name but as GMHC) agreed unanimously last night to go forward to complete its negotiation with WNET/PBS to sublease their space in the godforsaken AP Building at godforsaken 10th Avenue and 33rd Street, hard by the West Side Yards project, now commencing the demolition of the entire vicinity for all the surrounding blocks before constructing a monster development of many many high rises.
By sold down the river, is meant that because of landlord restrictions in the new lease, clients in this awful new location will be forced to receive less food, any access to any medical facilities, and to utilize “Jim Crow” separate entrance and elevator, as well as suffer the physical hardship of traveling to a neighborhood that is harshly served by anything remotely resembling accessible public transportation. How this board and its “leader” the once estimable Dr. Marjorie Hill, who does appear to have lost it, as has the board supporting her, are electing to go ahead into this truly idiotic move is one of the great mysteries of the present moment, wherein landlords can demand such discriminatory leases and building owners will not rent to HIV/AIDS organizations at all.
Instead of fighting against this illegal discrimination, the board and Dr. Hill have caved. Instead of demanding help from our Mayor and our elected officials Christine Quinn and Tom Duane, the board and Dr. Hill have caved. Instead of bringing the community and its very clients into this discussion for input, energy, and help, the board and Dr. Hill have determined to deal with this in such a secretive and below-deck manner that one would think they were involved in secret espionage activities, which in a way they are.
Over the past month I have been trying in vain to discuss this with anyone up there. I have either been turned away or lied to on just what is going down, on just what the terms are of this new lease, of what services will be provided or eliminated. Indeed, to this day, Dr. Hill remains unable to offer her terrified clients and equally stressed out staff direct answers of where exactly these clients will be able to obtain their future meals and access the life-saving medical facilities presently available on site on West 24th Street, their present home until the end of this year when their present and really really greedy landlord, one Frank Ring, known far and wide in Chelsea for his hatefulness, has demanded a huge rent increase to remain.
But get this: I have just learned that what no one is being told is that this new lease, which is meant to save money, will actually wind up costing a lot more than if they stayed where they are now, even with Mr. Frank Ring’s exorbitant and draconian penalty increases, which the board and Dr. Hill felt necessitated the move in the first place, at the end of their current 16 year lease on December 31st. That’s right: the new 8 year lease will cost many more millions than the new rent itself because of these discriminatory prohibitions and demands that WNET/PBS is placing upon GMHC, on what they can and cannot be allowed to provide on this new site. That’s right: even with Frank Ring’s penalty rent escalations, staying in his decrepit building (for which he provides no services of any kind) would cost several million dollars less than moving to the AP Building.
So what is this rush to move to old railroad yards and to leave the Chelsea that needs them? Can Chelsea, which has the highest proportion of hiv+ people in the city, afford to lose GMHC after having lost St. Vincent’s?
One hideous fact must be dealt with immediately. As I understand it (and believe me trying to get details out of the Soviet Russia atmosphere that exists now on West 24th Street is not easy), unless GMHC withdraws from negotiations by this coming Friday, May 14th, they will be forced to pay a penalty of several million dollars to WNET/PBS. One wonders what truly incompetent individual is negotiating for GMHC. Penalties are usually reserved to put a hold on valuable and desirable locations, not turkeys like this new space. Why the building’s owner, Broadway Properties, is facing possible bankruptcy itself!
I have implored Neil Horowitz, the head of WNET/PBS to back out of this deal. I have done the same to Alan Rosenberg, in charge of leasing at Broadway Properties. That would be the easiest way to save GMHC from its “leadership.” But of course WNET/PBS’s own greed and determination to unload their now unwanted premises as they move to fancy new ones, blinds them to the very humane aspects of what is really going on here—: their direct participation in the removal of life-saving services to people suffering from a fatal illness. That’s the last check I write to PBS.
On a personal note I would like to state that since May 1st I have been widely circulating emails about this escalating unhappy situation, which I consider to be a tragic one (not enough food, no medical facilities, etc for sick people, almost 50% of whom are gay is tragic at least to me). I have sent them to every decent media contact I have, to old GMHC board members whom I once considered friends and fellow warriors, to many at The New York Times (evidently this particular news is not fit to print), to any possible name I could extract from my extensive mailing list that I thought might help. I have received not one single helpful reply from any of you. There has not been one mention in the media of what is going on here. There has not been one person with power (and I know a lot of them) who has stepped forward to help. I am overwhelmed with the sadness that resides in this fact. Where the hell is everyone? Where is every gay editor and gay journalist and hiv+ person in a position where he or she could help me fight this fight? Your silence has been deafening. Yes, this fact is also sad, ineffably sad.
In a city where HIV infections continue to rise, in a state and country where this plague continues to grow and grow, HIV/AIDS is yesterday’s drink of water, if it ever indeed was that. This latest President, like all his ghastly predecessors, continues to cut AIDS funding for America and the world. ADAP/Ryan White free meds, and PEPFAR distributions of same around the world, for the destitute, the sick, the dying, are falling so behind that, in a matter of not much time at all, this plague, which you all thought was contained, will, without any doubt, be far, grotesquely far from it.
Yes, that’s right. HIV/AIDS is and has always been and has never been properly and honestly called a plague.
The least we can do is take care of a few thousand sick people on West 24th Street.