Putting a Shine on NYC’s Hospital District

  • Medicine & Health
  • 2015

On the east side of mid-Manhattan, close enough to each other to be the three bases in a game of stickball, stand a trio of formidable medical facilities: the New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell hospital campus, Rockefeller University, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

On the very same day in 2015, the latter two of those neighbors announced that they had received major philanthropic infusions. Rockefeller University received $100 million from Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis to create a new medical laboratory that will host research by top academics. Since its founding by John Rockefeller in 1901, Rockefeller University has been our nation’s foremost biomedical research institution, but the labs being replaced with Kravis assistance date back to the 1950s. That’s an eon in scientific time, so the new setup is crucial to keeping the university strong.

Simultaneously, Memorial Sloan Kettering was promised $150 million by David Koch for an outpatient center that will treat cancer victims. This gift will produce a giant people’s clinic serving 1,300 patients daily, housed in a new 23-story skyscraper. Cancer is an age-related disease, and with New York City’s population over 65 rising fast toward an estimated 1.4 million by 2030, there will be many new patients needing radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, and related help.

The third of those neighbors was simultaneously in the midst of its own $2 billion donation campaign. Pledges to NY Presbyterian/Weill Cornell began with a $100 million gift from David Koch. (As of 2016, Koch had donated $517 million to battling cancer—about half of his total giving.) Then Steven and Alexandra Cohen offered $75 million to create within the Koch center a new hospital for women and newborns. (Children’s hospitals are a favorite cause of the Cohens, who gave $50 million for one in Washington Heights in 2005, and $50 million for another in New Hyde Park in 2010.)

These contributions came just as an earlier medical angel in New York City passed from the scene. Between 1987 and his death in 2016, Herbert Irving, co-founder of the Sysco food-service company, donated more than $300 million to build up hospital care in the city.