A Startling New Sight In Central Park: Hospital Tents

Photo by Liz Kim/Gothamist.

Hospital tents began going up in the East Meadow of Central Park on Sunday, as a volunteer group working with Mount Sinai gets ready to open an overflow hospital in the park.

The Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse is working with the Mount Sinai network and city officials to help serve patients who have begun to overwhelm local hospitals. The tents are expected to hold 68 hospital beds and initially serve patients from Mount Sinai Brooklyn and Mount Sinai Queens.

Photo via Samaritan’s Purse.

Local churches helped set up the tents on Sunday, with volunteers putting together the structures. “Melissa Nystrom, a spokesperson for Samaritan’s Purse, said the field hospital will be staffed by more than 60 volunteer healthcare workers deployed from around the world,” Gothamist reported.

New York City has recorded more than 32,000 cases of coronavirus as of Sunday, and about 20% of patients who have tested positive end up needing hospital care. Officials have warned that local hospitals could hit capacity in the coming week. Mt. Sinai Morningside Heights has also set up a tent outside on West 113th Street.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 78 comments | permalink
    1. Sharon says:

      Thank you volunteers. You are awesome!

    2. Fred says:

      Hotels are vacant. Convert these hotels into makeshift hospitals. 1000 times more logical than tents in parks.

      • Frank says:

        Under different circumstances, yes, a grand idea. However, this is a highly transmissible, contagious disease. We have no full, scientific certainty as to whether or not, or for how long, this disease’s spores might linger on surfaces or in the infinite number of nooks and crannies in any structure. I, for one, wouldn’t take a room in any hotel used as a temporary hospital or allow my children to room in any dorm used for the same purpose. The real criminal disgrace is that Cuomo and Bloomberg allowed hospitals (St. Clare’s and St. Vincent’s come immediately to mind) to close and the properties to be turned over to real estate developers and financial interests and, compounding the insult to our society, without developing disaster preparedness contingency plans. I’ve always been curious as to whether their “blind trusts” happened to have investments in those resultant developments.

        I agree that the tents are not the optimum solution, but I hope they would be used for triage or very short-term stay for general med/surg patients, not for the seriously ill, regardless of diagnosis.

        • Larry says:

          “Allow” Hospital space costs money. Hospitals are businesses. Who was supposed to pay for the extra capacity?

          • G says:

            who should pay? the very rich who high-tailed it out of town to leave us all to die and the catholic church who gets away with murder by not paying taxes.

          • Frank says:

            Actually, we who go to the market wearing gloves and masks and those who have already died, those who shall die and those who become ill are paying for it right now due to an insane lack of foresight and disaster preparedness on the part of our political “leadership”.

            You raise an interesting point when you write “Hospitals are businesses”. They are, indeed, very big business whose senior staff are each paid in the millions despite the fact that they are employed by not-for-profits (at least here in New York City).

            Yes, hospitals should be run according to best practices, but healthcare organizations should not be run according to usual, for-profit business standards. The round peg of healthcare should not be forced in to the square hole of business.

      • Danielle Remp says:

        As I understand it from listening to Gov. Cuomo’s daily briefings, one of the criteria for an ideal temporary hospital site is that the space be empty, i.e., not need clearing before it can be equipped.

      • Ben says:

        Just a guess, part of the reason for building in East Meadow might be the proximity to Mount Sinai (easy to re-supply, etc.). Are there sizeable hotels in that part of the UES?

        Another guess: tent hospitals offer more flexibility in terms of arrangement than do hotel rooms. Need to switch set-ups so that ventilators can be jury-rigged to serve more than one patient simultaneously? No problem; just re-arrange the people & tents.

    3. NS says:

      Wasn’t there a post recently about some part of the park opening early? And now a field hospital is being built? Will that other part still be opened early?

      I wonder why more buildings aren’t being used before resorting to putting sick, vulnerable patients outdoors. I know there was talk of some dorms being used but what about all the school buildings that aren’t dorms? What about elementary/middle/high schools?

      The only reason against those I can think of at the moment is that the schools will re-open eventually and parents will not want to send their kids into rooms which had been full of the sick.

      But what does being outdoors do the sick? What about when it starts to get really hot? And how can machines, ventilators, IVs, etc be used outside?

      • SLJ says:

        The tents they are setting up will be like an indoor facility but they will be close next to mt Sinai. Samaritan’s Purse and their incredible healthcare workers do this all over the world. They’ve worked in Ebola stricken areas
        Many times. They are the BEST of the best when it comes to this type of volunteerism. Thankful for them!

      • JM says:

        The link to the article about the 113th stbtent explains it better—it seems that the tents are for triage, i.e. ER extensions, not for admitted patients.

        • chrigid says:

          if they’re only for triage for people from Brooklyn and Queens, why not set them up in Brooklyn and Queens and only transport those being admitted all the way to the Upper East Side?

      • Hawkeye says:

        You obviously never watched MASH, but a lot of has advanced in 70 years.

      • Fran says:

        I am shocked by the number of people in
        the Park and on sidewalks and supermarkets without any type
        of a mask!!!! First line of defense is a mask!
        don’t they understand transmittal is from human to

        • Danielle Remp says:

          My bias is that the first line of defense is the 6 feet of distance; also sanitizing hands and not touching my face before doing so.

          I wear a DIY mask; it’s a better, tighter fit than the “one-size-fits-all” products for sale. I would guess, also, that I’m not the only one with allergies to the synthetics used in store-bought masks. There are many sets of instructions online and, particularly, on YouTube, for making your own mask.

          At the inception of the spread, masks were dismissed as protection for others, rather than ourselves, in case we were positive. So, I also see the wearing of a mask as a service to others.

        • Natali says:

          A lot of people believe the “experts” who said healthy people don’t need one. Those who don’t believe that (like myself) can’t find one.

        • UpperwestNP says:

          These masks need to be save for healthcare workers who are exposed all day to people infected with COVID-19. It is not meant for people take a stroll in the park. The CDC and DOH against wearing the masks if you are healthy. It is meant for those who are sick and health care workers. We are now short on supply and risking our lives every day because of this.

        • EGF says:

          Over and over Doctors have said the masks are not necessary if you are well and not in close proximity (15-30 minutes in a closed room) with someone infected. The most effective prevention is hand washing and sanitizing after touching any public surface along with NEVER touching your face. These practices alone will prevent infection in MOST cases. Of course if you are more comfortable wearing mask, then do so! I will not be wearing one so don’t condemn me for it. I also am not going out of my apartment very often!

        • West Ender says:

          I would love to have a mask. But my fellow New Yorkers bought them all in a panic weeks ago. Please advise as to where I can get one for a normal price without having to break the mandatory 6 feet of social distancing. /sarcasm

    4. ST says:

      So will all the bikers on the drive be inhaling Corona now? Sixty eight beds? Seems like a big PR stunt for Trump, DiBlasio and Franklin Graham.

    5. ST says:

      What about the big empty armory on the UES?

    6. Dena F says:

      Everything fine here Donald Trump! Nothing to see. #notmypresident. Thank you to all the volunteers and medical staff who are working so hard to save lives!

    7. yma says:

      I agree with Fred. The ONE place healthy people are going to escape is Central Park. Why make it a radioactive hotspot for Covid? For only 68 beds – far fewer than could be housed in hotels or the parking lots at Yankee Stadium and CitiField?

      By the way – the people driving these trucks up from North Carolina (a.k.a. defying CDC travel warnings) and bringing in doctors from “around the world – incl Italy” is a Evangelical group putting “Faith on the front lines.” It’s founded by Billy Graham’s son. He wants to heal people so they know “God’s not made at them.” Seriously DiBlasio????

    8. CHRIS says:

      Thanks to the volunteers- but where are your

    9. Thomas Palatucci says:

      I live near the park and went on line to volunteer for the field hospital. The Samaratan’s Purse volunteer portal weeds out gay people who don’t adhere to their view of Christianity. You must affirm you agree with this to volunteer.

      In NYC? In 2020?

      • robert says:

        NO it does not.
        This is due to the HIPAA rules that they can not ask you if you have HIV or any other disease that could have caused you to have a compromised immune system. That would greatly increase the possibly of your getting sick. They are an “Equal Opportunity Employer” as stated on their site. Nowhere

        • UWSmom says:

          Hello Robert, Anyone of any sexual orientation can get HIV or be immunocompromised! fyi

          • robert says:

            My comment was worded that way as the person to whom I’m responding to mentioned that they “weed out gay people”

        • UWSmom says:

          According to the Samaritan Purse web site, they are only seeking CHRISTIAN medical professionals. So much for equal opportunity, Robert. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/christian-medical-volunteers-needed-for-coronavirus-response/

          • robert says:

            If you bother to go past the first page you will see the “statement of faith” you agree to is that you understand that this is a Christian based aid organization and asks volunteers to review that statement and agree that there goals of doing “service to the community at large” i.e. free to all medical care in the name of god is a god idea. It nowhere says that they will refuse you based just on that you are of a different religion etc. I doubt very much that the Baptist New Orleans resident that got disaster aid from them for months could have cared left which organization was providing life saving food and medical care. Also they have a very very good track record of helping all. not many of these groups Christian of otherwise has several deployable mobile hospitals. If agreeing that their org’s mission statement of severing god by helping others is incorrect, don’t join them. Its called being a volunteer, and by the way you are NOT required change your religious/lifestyle personal choices. There medical staff has many people that may not live their personal lives as Christians, but agree that the idea of the org believing that they have a mission to help others.

            • Lesbian on the uws. says:

              You have to sign an agreement that marriage is between a bio man and woman in order to volunteer there. I am a lesbian. If I need medical decisions made on my behalf, and I am admitted there, my wife will not be able to make decisions for me, as per all of their documentation. This is one reason why this is scary. The lgbt community is terrified if ending up here. If you have not been discriminated against in a medical setting before, I would not expect you to understand the fear this site instills in us all.

    10. Catherine says:

      I think this is a last resort and waste of time, money and volunteers. We have empty cruise ships, hotels better set up snd ultimately more comfortable and serviceable for sick people. Central Park Conservancy just announced it would open Sheep’s Meadow snd Great Lawn early to help w Social Distancing. Now East Meadow is going to be a tent city? Unnecessary drama!

    11. Karen L. Bruno says:

      I have been watching YouTube videos of people visiting hospitals saying that they are empty; has anyone been to a hospital lately in NYC? Are they full?

    12. Pedestrian says:

      Franklin Graham pocketed a $622,000 salary as head of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief agency, along with about $258,000 for acting as CEO of the BGEA, according to a 2015 Washington Post article. The BGEA reported about $120 million in total revenue for 2016.Feb 21, 2018

      The Mayor May have opened a Pandora’s Box.

      Stay safe and practice social distancing.

      • Jay says:

        So, what? The Red Cross CEO earns more than $600000.

        Does that really matter to you? It doesn’t to me. Each are doing good work, if you don’t like it, don’t donate.

        • Bob says:

          I think the primary objection is to Franklin Graham receiving money. If you take a look at some of the reprehensible and, frankly, evil things Franklin Graham has said in the service of “Christianity,” it’s really shocking. He really is a black eye on Christianity. So while I’m glad to have this organization do something good, if anyone is thinking of donating based on this your money might be better directed elsewhere.

          • Cyrus says:

            It really is quite a conundrum. This outfit asks its volunteers to espouse their evangelical beliefs, notably anti gay. Yet their equipment is badly needed. So they’re basically using this Pandemic as a platform to proselytize.

      • Jeff Berger says:

        Charity Navigator gives Samaritan’s Purse a Four Star rating:

        Program Expenses
        (Percent of the charity’s total expenses spent on the programs
        and services it delivers) 87.5%
        Administrative Expenses 4.9%
        Fundraising Expenses 7.5%
        Fundraising Efficiency $0.06
        Working Capital Ratio (years) 1.05
        Program Expenses Growth 10.0%
        Liabilities to Assets 8.2%

      • Isabella says:

        Politics and pandemics make strange bedfellows. In fact Graham espouses religious beliefs that probably most New Yorkers would wholly disagree with and that violate civil rights. Don’t throw out your critical judgment with your fear. We have a federal and state government and a National Guard who could be fitting places for essential healthcare all over New York. Why aren’t they? Only at the Javits Center?

    13. Patrick Simmons Harrigan says:

      How incredible to see these wonderful selfless people
      help NYC. I can only hope that the virus speaks soon and warm weather comes fast.

      • Ye Olde Englishe Teachere says:

        Re: “I can only hope that the virus speaks soon ….”

        Sadly, the virus HAS spoken…across the world.
        Obviously a typo.

        May We Have Your Attention Please:
        Repeat after me: “Type ONCE…Proofread TWICE”

    14. Sam says:

      Now the people living near Central Park will be exposed to COVID19 without any choice. Why not use the hotels instead?

      • TAS says:

        On this International Doctors day when all health care workers are risking their lives and don’t have the luxury to criticize, let’s suspend judgment and show support to NGOs and other groups trying to help fight this pandemic. There is no right answer except to stay positive and do our parts to help.

      • RB says:

        If you live THAT close to Central Park, I’m sure you’ve already left for the Hamptons or other wealthy area.

    15. B says:

      This hospital is located on the museum mile. All the museums are closed. They could not have been utilized or the hotels in the area?

    16. Jane Maynard says:

      I suggest that the city might try to use the uncommissioned cruise ships. I suggest that the air conditioning system be revamped… This would Help owners of cruise ship companies to Receive a charitable deduction and help their image in the future… Signed Colin JH Maynard, East Hampton New York

      • Woody says:

        How exactly do the owners of the ships get a tax deduction without spending money? It’s very easy to open other people’s wallets.

    17. BJ Hunneycut says:

      You all are missing the point of having it across the street from a major hospital where there is excellent ventilation, no existing surfaces to clean and being able to share resources with Mount Sinai rather than siphoning staff away to another location.

    18. Honest Abe says:


    19. JerryV says:

      Regarding Danielle Remps’s comment about Joseph Pharmacy having “plenty of masks”: I bought a box for $35; they had only Chinese instructions written on them. They have the consistency of tissue paper and it is difficult to even separate the thin layers of each mask to unfold them without ripping. They are useless for avoiding either transmission from others or transmission from the mask wearer. I will never buy from Joseph again because of price gouging at a time of national crisis.

      • HelenD says:

        Not sure what you purchase but I have several masks from Joseph’s and they’re of very good quality. If you compare the prices online they are certainly NOT price gouging. Their staff is working from morning through evening without even a food break, and they’ve gone out of their way to make sure the store is kept clean and well stocked under the circumstances. IMO the fact that they’ve stayed open through an entire year of construction next door to them, and they’ve even managed to open a 2nd store in this economy is incredible. We need to support them!

      • Karen L. Bruno says:

        Get a needle and thread and an old shirt and make your own!

        • Danielle Remp says:

          You don’t even need a needle and thread, but just a pair of scissors to cut up a t-shirt. That way, you’re not taking anything from health care workers.

          Mine fits much better than the masks seen on the street that seem to fall and gap here and there.

          It’s full of models on the internet on various materials and ways to make one.

    20. UWS concern says:

      why don’t the city use Governor Island. There’s plenty of space there and will not impact on neighborhoods.

    21. UWS concern says:

      Governor’s Island should be opened up to treat Covid19 patients. It will not impact the local communities.

    22. Ronnie says:

      Thank you, Samaritan’s Purse. God bless you all!

    23. JC says:

      Don’t mean to be an alarmist, since this has already been reported, but by the middle of April we could have 800 deaths a day in NYC. This area might be used for a morgue. We need to do whatever we can right now and problem solving is very difficult during a pandemic. We should have been more prepared, but this feels like it’s straight out of Hollywood. Doesn’t anyone watch pandemic movies? To all my local UWS’ers: Be Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Home.

    24. Dr Tudor Rickards says:

      All my deepest thoughts with you for this challenge. From a researcher at Flower and Fifth in the 1960s.
      Dr Tudor Rickards

    25. AB says:

      Why not use Donald Trumps hotels as make shift hospitals.

    26. Lori says:

      Randalls island should be used for tent hospitals
      It has no residents except for homeless shelters and a state mental hospital which is fenced and a very secure facility. unlike CPW – Randalls island can close the roads and walkways to the island. The ways you can access Randalls island are limited.

      Those same entrances have gates that can be closed.
      It is a island which makes an ideal place for infectious disease.

    27. first says:

      aren’t there vacant shopping malls that can be used?

    28. SophiaG says:

      So much of the “typical” UWS bias against white Christian males in these comments. If the beds were put there by National Action Network (no chance of that) everyone would be singing their praises. Disgusting.

    29. NYC10023 says:

      Anytime I want to see how clueless my neighbors are I come and read the comments on West Side Rag.

      Thanks so much to the volunteers who are putting up this temporary hospital, and all the NYC-wide healthcare workers, delivery people, first-responders, building staff, and everyone else helping so many in this crisis.

      I don’t care what your politics are as long as you’re helping.

      • Neil H Neumann says:

        Finally, a voice of reason. Clueless doesn’t even begin to describe the nature of so many comments on this blog. So many suggestions, ideas, and rants about complicated problems that are severely disconnected from facts and rational thought processes. I often wonder how many get through life with such cynicism and flawed logic. They just jump from outrage to outrage.

    30. Margaret says:

      Many, many countries using vacant hotel space for COVID19 patients. See CNN article https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/hotels-turned-hospitals-coronavirus/index.html.

      National Guard could convert these empty hotel rooms in a week – they converted entire Javits Center in a week.

      We do not have an immediate need for just 68 beds and putting these sick people out in the weather instead of a vacant hotel room is terrible.

      Worse, this is a secret deal. None of us have any idea how many beds Mt.Sinai plans to put in North Meadow, which is 23 acres, nor were we given any explanation for turning a City park over to Mt. Sinai. No doubt, Mt. Sinai intends to put many more than 68 beds in North Meadow. The public is being kept in the dark about the whole deal.

      City parks should NEVER be on a list as potential hospital sites. Right now we need these parks for fresh air and exercise. We should not be pushed into smaller City parks.

      What’s next? Closing down Great Lawn for NY Presbyterian?

      Send email your city/state reps, folks, or this is just the beginning!

    31. Mark H says:

      How come no one here has discussed that Franklin Graham and his organization besides being anti-LBGT and against trans-people, they are also against taking Jews as volunteers. Only Christians who adhere to their version of Christianity can volunteer with them. Mt Sinai hospital is permitting this shonda happen.

      • SharpeyedLooker says:

        Yes, Mark H., you’re all too right: Smack in one of the early news-blurbs about tents suddenly being set up in the park, someone with the Purse was quoted extending a call explicitly for “Christian” volunteers to come help them!
        As someone raised in the 200-yr-old mainline Protestant denomination that calls itself by that name (e.g., Park Ave Christian Church, at 85th & Park), i detest how what we used to call the Holy Rollers have managed to usurp, and exert some kind of awful monopoly on, a very old, very broad name of a belief system.
        At any rate, the spokesperson said this bluntly and frankly, and in my big double-take my first thought was that the “gorgeous mosaic” of this town – and of this great park, too! – are about THE worst places to pull this exclusionary number. My second thought was, do the people over at Mt. Sinai truly realize what bald-faced anti-ecumenism they’re fostering across the street? A ‘shanda’ FROM the goyim indeed!

    32. Frankied says:

      Can someone ask NYC & Company head Fred Dixon how the Trump Hotel has not donated one single room to first responders or medical professionals?

    33. Carol Mennie says:

      First, my Forever Gratitude to all those keeping life going here in NY.
      But why not use safe, protected indoor spaces like the Armory? Why flimsy tents subject to weather conditions and worse. Shame on the un-preparedness of our government…how many more have to die without protective gear & supplies?
      Wake up Washington!
      Those of us left will wake you on election day.

    34. This is NY says:

      Samaritan’s Purse is offering a much-needed service…one that I wouldn’t avail myself of so long as a I have a shred of conscience left in me. They’re the epitome of corruption and bigotry. If I’m unfortunate enough to need COVID care, I won’t be spending what are possibly the last days of my lesbian life subjecting myself to their repugnance.

      Details here:

    35. Paul of NYC says:

      Are tents heated?