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Medical workers assist a patient from NYU Langone Medical Center's Tisch Hospital into an ambulance during an evacuation.
Medical workers assist a patient from NYU Langone Medical Center's Tisch Hospital into an ambulance during an evacuation.
Photo credit: Associated Press

Failed NYU Langone generator draws fire

By Joe Carlson and Melanie Evans
Posted: October 30, 2012 - 8:00 pm ET

Floodwaters still filled tunnels and power outages remained for much of lower Manhattan as recriminations began on why hundreds of patients had to be shuttled from one of the city's premier hospitals while a massive superstorm passed overhead Monday night.

NYU Langone Medical Center, which has a 786-bed campus on First Avenue, evacuated nearly 300 patients Monday night after the hospital's backup power generator failed. The transfers required the work of more than two dozen ambulances, which lined up around the block and transported patient to Mount Sinai Hospital and four other facilities, according to the Associated Press.

Late Monday night Mayor Michael Bloomberg was described in published reports as being “clearly angry” during a news conference where he said hospital officials had reassured the city that the hospital's backup power would work.

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The hospital was evacuated last year for Hurricane Irene, but not for Sandy this week.

But Gary Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs and a trustee at NYU Langone, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that hospital officials are aware of shortcomings in their infrastructure.

“I am acutely aware that the infrastructure at NYU is somewhat old,” he said. “We do have backup generation facilities. They are not state-of-the-art, they're not in the most state-of-the-art location. That's all very, very well-known by the board of directors of NYU.”

In a news conference Tuesday night, the mayor said that too many generators were located in the basements of buildings in the areas evacuated for flood risk, though he did not name NYU Langone. It was not immediately clear why NYU Langone's generator failed.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said in an e-mail Tuesday evening that part of the generator is on the roof and part in the basement, which she said took on 8 feet of water. The reason for the failure, she said, is being investigated.

Cohn said the hospital is in the midst of a $3 billion campaign to modernize the facilities, including improvements “to make sure that we would have uninterrupted backup power forever.”

Cohn said the hospital is located in Zone A (PDF), which is considered the most likely to flood during high-water events. “One of the realities of it is that NYU is also in Zone A. It's in a low-lying flood area on the East River, where they tend to need to get evacuated when they evacuate Zone A,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported that the billionaire chairman of the hospital, Kenneth Langone, was a patient on the 11th floor when the building lost power, and had to be evacuated.

“We believed we had the machines, we believed the machines would work, and we believed everything we were told about the scope and size of the storm,” Langone was quoted as saying in the Bloomberg story. “Do you think they'd have kept me in there if they thought I was going to be unsafe?”

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