Mark Helen Keller Day By Supporting Landmark Designation for the Historic NY Eye and Ear Infirmary
June 27 is Helen Keller Day, marking the birthday in 1880 of the inspirational disability rights activists, suffragist, civil libertarian, and progressive crusader and educator. Keller has a long history connected to our neighborhoods and their deep tradition of advocacy for progressive social change.
Keller was also the guest of honor and speaker at the ribbon cutting for the opening of the Schermerhorn Pavilion of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (NYEEI) in 1903, the striking Richardsonian Romanesque Building that has stood for nearly 120 years at the corner of Second Avenue and 13th Street, and served generations of those with hearing and vision disabilities or challenges. The NYEEI is the oldest specialized hospital in the Western Hemisphere and the second oldest hospital in New York City, and has been at the forefront of service to the visually and hearing impaired for over 200 years.
But doctors and staff at the hospital are worried that this historic building may be destroyed as part of a plan to reorganize services at the institution. They have reached out to us, and along with a coalition of local and preservation organizations, we are all seeking to honor and preserve the building and its legacy through landmark designation, while doctors and staff work concurrently to try to ensure that the hospital’s vital services are maintained.
State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein have lent their support to this effort. Unfortunately Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine has notified us that he will not be supporting the effort, and Councilmember Carlina Rivera has thus far been unresponsive.