Apr. 26, 2023 By Bill Parry
Three years after the COVID-19 pandemic exposed healthcare system shortcomings in Queens and across the city, St. John’s University is taking bold steps to bolster the medical workforce in New York.
Just 11 months after the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new $106 million St. Vincent Health Sciences Center, SJU administration, faculty and community leaders joined construction workers for a traditional “topping-off” as the final steel beam was hoisted to the top of the new building’s superstructure on the Great Lawn.
Scheduled to open in the summer of 2024, the new state-of-the-art facility will be home to the University’s existing and future health sciences programs to train future generations of healthcare providers and caregivers including SJU’s new Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN) program.
“At the human level, the people who really give you care and comfort and help you to heal are the nurses, and there is a shortage of nurses in our country and this is a difficult time to choose nursing because there is so much burnout because of COVID.” SJU President Rev. Brian Shanley said. “This nursing initiative is really critical for our future going forward because I think nurses are really the unspoken heroes of our healthcare system. So our investment in this is an important investment in our community. I hope that we educate generations of nurses who will give themselves tirelessly to take care of the poor, to take care of those who are on the margins of our society.”
The nursing program will be the heart of the new 70,000-square-foot academic building, SJU Provost and VP for Academic Affairs Simon G. Møller, Ph.D., said.
“When completed, the St. Vincent Health Sciences Center will feature state-of-the-art classrooms, cutting-edge laboratories, patient simulation facilities, and transformative virtual reality technology that is redefining what is possible in the healthcare industry,” Møller said. “Above it all, it will be an amazing home for generations of caregivers, healthcare professionals, and individuals who are committed to improving the lives of others.”
Brian Baumer, SJU’s associate vice president of Campus Facilities and Services, provided an update on the progress of the construction.
“With 1,137 columns and beams and 875 tons of steel being utilized, the foundation of this building is solid — as is the future outlook of this innovative learning space,” Baumer said, adding that the design plans for the center will make it energy efficient with geothermal heating and cooling with 66 wells drilled below ground. “If we dug any deeper than 499 feet, that would have required a mining license.”
Before it traveled to the top of the superstructure, the construction workers on the project and dignitaries signed their names to the final steel beam that was adorned with a small evergreen tree as a key symbol. In a steel industry tradition, the tree signifies that construction has reached the sky without any loss of life or injury and it bodes well for the future inhabitants of the building.
“Reaching the topping off milestone on the St. Vincent Health Sciences Center is an exciting accomplishment and we’re incredibly thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with St. John’s University, CannonDesign, and our many trade partners to bring this vision to life,” said Dave Margolius, executive vice president of Shawmut’s New York Metro region.”It’s days like today where we get to reflect on the spirit of what we are building together, what the building stands for is what turns our passion into purpose.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.