jeudi 10 juin 2010
Larry Kramer speaks to the world
THE TRAGEDY OF TODAY'S GMHC
By Larry Kramer
June 9, 2011
This is the second of two emails I am sending you.
What follows in this one is an attempt to make some sense of what has been happening with GMHC, which more and more appears to be in one great big mess. If I have appeared too emotional, indeed bothersome, in my recent endless emails to you, it is because this organization was my idea and was started by me and five friends in my living room. ACT UP, too, was my baby and it pained me mightily to watch it self-destruct, this mightiest and best of all grass roots organizations ever. Is GMHC on a similar path? You may be sick of reading emails from me, but I hope that you will do your part and read them. AIDS is now a world-wide plague and we are all in it together.
I am becoming increasingly aware that all I am stirring up about GMHC and its rotten agreement with WNET in the AP building on 33rd and 10th is forcing me to consider something I had not intended to deal with when I started this crusade to get them into decent space. And this is: what in the world has happened to this wonderful organization? IS IT WORTH SAVING?
Because, as I said, it sure as hell is in one lousy stinking rotten place, and I don't mean its old building or its potential new one. And unless they can extricate themselves from this lousy stinking rotten place they are going to self-destruct on their own. So, what started out to be my attempt to get GMHC a decent home has turned out to be much more than that. The issue of a new home almost is beside the point, although of course it isn't.
I do want to say up front that I am not questioning the quality of the many services provided by GMHC's staff. Somehow in this mess much of the staff has managed to provide excellent, critical services to clients.
I want to deal with such issues as TRANSPARENCY, and ACCOUNTABILITY, and PROTECTION for those who are currently unprotected if they speak up. The early GMHC and ACT UP were both willing to answer to their constituencies and everyone else. Now GMHC has sunk to a low point of deception and non-disclosure. Why isn't anyone holding it to the same standard we followed in the early days? This seems to me to be even more important as AIDS services become an industry.
GMHC's refusal to seek help from politicians like Quinn or Duane or our vaguely homophobic mayor to find appropriate space, or to challenge the hateful restrictions set forth by WNET or Broadway Partners, or to be transparent with its clients, staff, funders and other organizations, is totally irresponsible, reprehensible, and indeed most questionable. Other community leaders who are courageous enough to go on record agree:
Tom Viola (Tom is the head of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, perhaps one of the most respected of all HIV/AIDS endeavors: Tom in his email spoke to the issue of GMHC's non-transparency like this: "Marjorie and the GMHC Board have made its bed. But they have also quite sadly in the process shown themselves to be disingenuous to their friends and colleagues to say nothing of outrageously dishonest to their clients. They lied to us. To our faces. What I learned about GMHC these last couple weeks is sad and incredibly disturbing. It will be a long time and take much personal and professional explanation before I ever recommend that BC/EFA fund them again. But in this process we have been treated with dismissive disrespect. It is a sad reflection on the organization's culture at the top. It bodes poorly for their future. And, if I may quote my Italian grandmother: ‘The fish stinks from the head.' The leaders of GMHC have been dishonest, intellectually slippery and evasive. This is not how you treat friends."
Gina Quattrochi, who has run Bailey House for 19 years, shared with me that she is shocked at the restrictions GMHC accepted in their new lease, and their moratorium on information. She said "Long ago I learned that transparency is vital even if the telling of the fact creates pain and conflict. After all, "Silence = Death." We all have learned that – sometimes the hard way. Lots of us ... Housing Works, ACRIA, Harlem United, APICHA etc have moved in the last 5 yrs and I don't know of anyone who has been asked to restrict core services or has agreed to give them up. In fact, Harlem United took on the Harlem politicians and community board to get its day treatment program into the community. I wish GMHC had reached out to all of us."
Here is how I originally got involved. I was asked by unhappy clients to help them. They were frightened that a rumored move would curtail many of their services. Dr. Marjorie Hill, the CEO, would not talk to them or discuss with anyone what might be going on. When these unhappy clients called me, a number of details about the new building's lease, which still had not been officially identified as 425 W. 33rd St., had leaked out. A curtailment of the pioneering food service. No medical services anymore. No access to the building after six. No gathering in their new space of more than 30-60 people. A neighborhood so far removed from public transport as to be of concern. Building management's prohibiting them from using the main entrance with the nice lobby. There were others, but these were the main worries, originally. They grew to include others.
What I did: I met with Marcelo Maia, a noble man, who is the chair of GMHC's CAB (known rather disgustingly as the Customer Advisory Board). He and Manuel Rivera, the CAB representative on the board itself, joined Marcelo in asking me to challenge Dr. Hill about this decision to make such a move.
I had lunch with Dr. Hill. Indeed, we have lunched occasionally over the years. I had liked her. She wasn't as angry as I would have liked, but she seemed proud of GMHC. She went through these items that CAB had enumerated to me. One by one she assured me that all was well. I issued a reassuring report. Within 2 hours I discovered that Dr. Hill had lied to me about almost every item on CAB's list. There could be no kitchen. Food would no longer be meals but "gourmet sandwiches" and soup. Clients would be forced to enter the building via what is the alley where the building's garbage is currently collected and dispatched. Then they would be forced to utilize the freight elevator to take them to their floors. None of the tri-partite on-site medical services provided by the David Geffen and Michael Palm Foundations and New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center would be allowed to transfer to this new building, even though none of these services represent any health hazard to other building tenants.
Who requested the restrictions and why? Whether these demands were at the insistence of WNET, whose space GMHC would be subleasing, or the building's owners, Broadway Partners, was not and is still not clear. In my own attempted discussions with Mr. Alan Rubenstein, in charge of leasing for Broadway Partners and a most unpleasant man, he seemed to say that it was WNET that was demanding these prohibitions. I told him I did not believe him. But then I have never been able to get WNET's head macho, Mr. Neil Shapiro to answer any of my calls or emails, obviously another difficult gentlemen. It was apparent to Tom Viola and to me that the clients had been right to be concerned. Not only could they get no direct answers from Dr. Hill or the always invisible board, they were obviously being screwed by the very people who are paid to look out for their welfare.
THE SECRET LEASE: Marcelo extracted a promise from the board chair, Mr. Matt Moore, a lawyer I am told, that the board would meet with CAB before GMHC signed the lease. But GMHC had already secretly signed the lease agreement with WNET, unknown to anyone. So here we have another lie, to match Marjorie's many lies that all the services in the new building would match what the clients were privy to now.
WHO SCARED THE "CONSUMERS" AWAY?
There were 100 very unhappy clients ready to fight for their rights when Tom and I first met with them on a Thursday. Here is my report, which I circulated:
CONSUMER ADVISORY BOARD MEETING (CAB) THURSDAY, MAY 13, 2010, 4-6
100+ CLIENTS WERE HYSTERICALLY ANGRY AT CEO DR. MARJORIE HILL AND BOARD COCHAIR MATT MOORE. THEY WERE LAMBASTED FOR TWO FULL HOURS BY A HUGELY ANGRY CROWD. ENDLESSLY. NON STOP. I WAS WITNESSING ONE OF THE GREAT AIDS ACTIVIST EVENTS OF ALL TIME. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE OUTCOME WAS BUT I HEARD THAT MOORE SPOKE ANGRILY TO HILL IN PUBLIC AFTERWARD. I DONT THINK HE HAD ANY IDEA THAT THE AGENCY WAS SO UNHAPPY INSIDE. HE CERTAINLY HAD NEVER BEEN EXPOSED TO ANYTHING LIKE THIS, THIS UPTIGHT WHITE LAWYER TYPE WHO IS MEANT TO WORK AT GOLDMAN SACHS OR SOME PLACE VERY WHITE, SCREAMED AT BY UPSET GAY, STRAIGHT, TRANSGENDER GMHC CLIENTS – MOST DEPENDING ON MEDICAID AND SUBSIDIES JUST TO STAY ALIVE -- MOSTLY PEOPLE WHO LOST EVERYTHING BEFORE THEY CAME TO GMHC, SCREAMING BECAUSE THEIR VERY SURVIVAL WAS BEING THREATENED. TOM VIOLA AND I WERE HARDLY SILENT. AT THE END TOM AND I BEGGED HILL AND MOORE TO CONSIDER BEING HEROES. I GOT DOWN ON MY KNEES AND BEGGED THEM TO BE HEROS. SHE PASSED OUT SOME STUPID "FACT SHEET" THAT WAS AS FULL OF LIES AS EVERYTHING ELSE SHE HAS BEEN SPEWING AROUND. AND SHE WAS CALLED ON EVERY ONE OF THEM AS SHE TRIED TO PRESENT THEM IN BETWEEN EVERYONE TRYING TO SCREAM HER DOWN. EVERYONE TRULY HOPES SHE AND BOARD CO-CHAIRS GET REPLACED.
By the following Monday those 100 angry CAB members had been terrified into silence. Six people showed up for the demonstration they'd all originally agreed to. The CAB chair, Marcelo Maia, a truly moving passionate man devoted to fighting for his fellow clients, is not only silenced but set upon in a hateful fashion by the CAB representative on the board, Manny Rivera. I had already had a run-in with Manny and accused him of being more on the side of the board than of the CAB. He became so angry I thought he might actually do me a physical injury. Whether he has been sent in by Dr. Hill to terrify the clients into silence is unclear. What is clear is that all those 100 angry clients are now invisible. And that the ones who are visible are fighting with each other like enemies. So the CAB, and all that a CAB is meant to stand for as a protector of clients' rights, is now useless. Who is behind this? For someone definitely is.
As I continued to send out email reports of what I was discovering about the total inequalities of this lease, about Broadway Partners (a company with problems all its own, facing possible bankruptcy for buying high when the market was now low and notes are falling due), about WNET, anxious to get out of this building ASAP into new posher digs elsewhere, about how the clients had been silenced, about how volunteer lawyers had stepped forward to offer their services to fight Broadway Partners and WNET on this discriminatory Jim Crow entrance, I was also becoming privy to more and more complaints from inside GMHC itself, from its very unhappy staff via Sister Mary Elizabeth, the head of Aegis, one of the best sources in the world on any kind of data about the plague
I have known and worked with Sister Mary Elizabeth for many years. I trust her and admire her totally. Mary is one of the greatest human beings I have ever known. She started and runs aegis.org the largest repository of any and all information about absolutely anything and everything having to do with HIV/AIDS. She started it in her trailer, in which she lived with her then-parents in San Juan Capistrano, California. She is over six-feet tall. She is transgendered. She had been a sergeant in the United States Army and chief petty officer in the United States Navy and had fought in Vietnam. She became a woman, and then became a nun, until her order discovered her past as a man, at which point she was excommunicated. This makes no difference to her. She is still a nun, and wears her habit proudly. She still performs one of the greatest services to humanity imaginable. Her success and generous grants and acknowledgments from such as Elton John and amFAR have allowed the computers to be moved out of the trailer. The e-mails I had been receiving originally from distressed CAB and staff members had in fact been forwarded to me by Mary. She is beloved by many of the staff inside of GMHC who have sought her help with getting data about the plague. Her contacts are everywhere. When her email inbox filled up with over 100 emails from "inside," she figured she'd better call on me.
THESE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS I LEARNED FROM THE FIRST BATCH OF SOME 100 EMAILS MARY HAD RECEIVED:
Staff do not like or trust Dr. Marjorie Hill.
Everybody loathes somebody named Anthony Fullington (a new name to me) the Chief Financial Officer, who appears to be her hatchet man, and to whom she's turned over all financial matters. He pretends he's gone to Harvard when he hasn't. He has no HIV/AIDS experience or any sense of mission that working in such a place requires.
Dr. Hill is protected on the board by her friend Odell Mayes, the board co-chair. So one cannot discern what indeed the board knows about what is going on inside Dr. Hill's domain, which will begin to sound to me like some sort of proto-fascist state. (I insert that, despite many requests, the board has refused to meet with me, one of its founders, or provide their email addresses, which I had to locate otherwise. All my emails to them had had to be sent to Dr. Hill.)
The environment inside is one of fear: Some 55 staff members have been fired in recent months (GMHC is not poor; it's recent AIDS Walk brought in almost $6 million), many of them ordered to leave within 2 hrs on their day of dismissal, and escorted out by security. They did nothing wrong as far as I can tell but work in poorly funded programs yet they were treated like criminals the day they were laid off. It seems to me that if you trusted them to run programs it's odd to run them out of the building
A former chair of CAB was exiled from the building and all its services after he had a fight with a staff person, FOR A YEAR. Another member of the current CAB, who set up a website named Friends of GMHC, was sent a legal letter threatening him by a lawyer on the board.
Here are more: Sister Mary and I have maintained confidentiality to protect these people from any action by Marjorie or the board (there is no "whistle-blower" protection up there, obviously):
First, any assertions about the transformation of the meals program from its current form to the shape it might take are pure conjecture. Neither the Board nor Marjorie Hill has performed the necessary analysis and investigation to determine what if any type of food service might be viable in the new space. There has been no contact with GMHC's main funder Public Health Solution to determine if a change to soup and sandwiches would even be permissible under the existing contract terms or if Health Department regulations could be met to provide food service in any form. Moreover, it seems fairly certain that much funding that GMHC is currently eligible for because of its status as a provider of hot meals prepared in an industrial kitchen would no longer flow to it. What we do know is that the meals program is the most utilized program of all of GMHC's programs with close to one quarter of HIV+ clients only attending GMHC for meals and another 45% utilizing the meals program in conjunction with other services. There seems to be little question that the new space will result in a significant shrinkage of the meals program itself which means the large flow clients, now a primary pool of recruitment to other programs, will begin to dry up, threatening the ability of those programs to meet the required contract deliverables and ultimately the flow of dollars through lost revenue. One thing that is appealing to funders is the very large number of clients that GMHC has contact with each year. In the past couple of years GMHC has served perhaps 6000 HIV+ clients. (Dr. Hill has been maintaining 15,000) Conservative estimate of the number of clients that would be lost because of a change in the meals program is 1000 - 1500 clients.
The move decouples GMHC from an on-site medical provider. Though much is likely to be made about the numerous MOUs GMHC has with medical providers throughout the city and GMHC's willingness to escort clients to those providers if necessary (with what resources?) the truth is that the absence of an on-site medical provider is a stunning blow to the comprehensive care model that GMHC has touted over the years as a centerpiece in nearly all its funding applications.
What perhaps is most troubling about the recent events is the incredible absence of planning and thought that has accompanied a decision which in its original conception was simply meant to relocate GMHC to a different and hopefully better facility, but has turned into one that will ultimately change the type of services the GMHC can provide, limit its ability in the short- to mid-term to pursue additional licensure and service options and weaken GMHC's competitiveness for both public and private funds. This reality rests on the shoulders of GMHC's CEO and its Board who will ultimately be remembered for setting GMHC back more than a few years in its growth if not completely bringing its glorious history to an unceremonious end.
There is one truth about Marjorie Hill that no one wants to admit and it's that she does not have the skills and the experience to manage GMHC nor does she have much interest in managing GMHC. She prefers to see herself as ambassador as opposed to a leader. The Board that appointed her opted for a symbol over substance. Ask the staff how many times they see her during the year or if she ever walks through the offices to offer support. The environment at management meetings is poison. No one except a few people (and one of them is now gone and a second is out the door) has courage enough to speak out for fear of some form of retaliation. But more galling is the lies and misinformation about the cost of the move. Someone should ask the CFO if the proposed move improves the financial picture of the organization or not. Someone should ask the CFO if the proposed move is in the best financial interests of the organization. While, the issues of the kitchen, separate entrance, absence of testing and loss of co-located clinic are criminal in their own right they also divert attention from the fact that the move, despite what (Board member and ex-head of the real estate search committee) David Valdez would have us believe, will cripple the agency financially. Ask the CFO if Marjorie Hill is capable of executing her duties as CEO. Ask the managing director of development if Marjorie Hill has a clue about what is needed to right the sinking ship. GMHC deserves so much better than a figurehead. The board should be ashamed of its complicity in this endeavor. These are the truths that must be revealed and the questions that must be asked. And the community leaders like Larry Kramer and Urvashi Vaid need to accept the plain reality that whatever good intentions Marjorie Hill may have and whatever contributions she has made to the "movement" she is simply and plainly unqualified (bordering on incompetent) to lead GMHC.
There are people at GMHC that think that the CEO should have been fired for misleading you and I agree with that, because she is not doing that to you alone, which would have been enough, but to who knows how many more people, including all of us at GMHC. I'm a volunteer and have been since 2001. I'm telling you this so you know that I'm not just a client but an active GMHC volunteer. As a volunteer I can tell you that since Dr. Hill became CEO, the level of tension inside GMHC is so high you can cut it with a knife.
I think that the whole thing is deeply corrupt--ask about salaries... they are paying themselves lots of money at least at the top. This is more about retaining their sinecures more than anything else. In talking to people about all of this, I've realized there are other agencies with a much greater impact on public policy (i.e. Housing Works, Harlem United, NYCAHN, AIDS Service Center, Bailey House just to name a few) and others with a real sense of how the landscape of AIDS services will change in the wake of health care reform and which are trying to innovate and change along with the times. Then you have sad GMHC.
PERSON SEVEN (HERE'S ONE THAT EVEN CALLS ME TO TASK):
Every day, the lives of clients who somehow find their way to us are turned around. OF COURSE THAT IS WORTH SAVING. If you have any doubt about that, you don't know GMHC. You founded it, but do you know so little about it? Save for the management, it is a gorgeous thing you have made, everything you could have ever dreamed when you founded it and more, successful beyond all imagination. And, of course, there are compromises and stupid restrictions on grants and all of that, but the staff makes it happen. But when a client comes into GMHC ready to get control of his or her life, there is a marvelous network of people and services that will help them to do just that. When a client who normally has the skills to sustain just hits a period of illness or bad luck, we are terrific at helping them get back to where they need to be. I am in awe of the people I work with every day on the front lines at GMHC. I am in awe of what you have created. It is sad that you don't seem to understand or appreciate the utter glory of what you created. Please, don't even raise the question of whether it is worth saving. There is a GED program that graduates about 25 people every year. Education! Job skills! A client can study at GMHC and become Microsoft certified. A GREAT credential to have in the work place. It is a chance to work and earn and support yourself. Something better to be involved in than drugs. Some of our clients never had that and GMHC made it possible.
WHY AREN'T PEOPLE COMING TO DR. HILL'S DEFENSE?
As I slowly fed some of the above information into the emails I have been mass-circulating, I did not receive one single defense of Dr. Hill or of the board. Not one staff person has defended her. She is seen to be arrogant and out of touch. The clients are certainly frightened of her. They are so frightened of her that they are afraid to protest for fear they too will be exiled from the building. One of the clients asked me if the lawyers who have come forward to help fight this discriminatory lease could sue GMHC instead, on behalf of them, the clients! (Indeed, just today I received the following email from a client/staff person: "if we speak out in public we will most likely be fired or just left to die on the professional vine. The level of harassment and intimidation is high. A rally just attended by a CAB member got him suspended and you and others are wondering why clients are afraid to protest in public? The current CAB Chair is the subject of constant harassment. Two high level staff members protested the move and they had to resign.)
PERSON EIGHT, NINE, AND TEN, SIGNED "CONCERNED MEMBERS OF THE GMHC COMMUNITY:
The CFO sees the agency's services as expenses, not as the reason the agency exists. And not as the ultimate source of the agency's income. If the clients go elsewhere for their services, so does the grant money. He does not appreciate the suffering that is created when these services are not readily available and easily obtainable. He is arrogant enough to believe that he can cut and cut and cut the staff until the staffing is no longer in compliance with the agency's contractual obligations with its funders. Since Robert Banks left, a great deal of money is being skimmed out of program services. The contracts continue to be billed, but the required numbers of staff members are not always there, leaving the grants in jeopardy if and when they are audited. A lot of money provided by federal, state and local programs to help PWA's is being diverted away from services for the clients and into overhead. Diverted by GMHC "leadership."
Remember, the above represent only a small part of the over 100 emails from "inside" that Sister Mary has received.
WHAT OTHERS WROTE: (I'VE SUMMARIZED SO THIS DOESN'T GO FOR ANOTHER 7 PAGES)
Most if not all of the programs that GMHC now offers were in place before Marjorie was made the Executive Director. The grants were there. The staff was there. The clients were there utilizing the services. Are the programs thriving or withering under her leadership? Are they bigger? Or smaller? Is program enrollment up or down? Is the agency in compliance with its grants? Are the agency's partnerships with other agencies in the city better or worse?
The Case Management staff has been reduced. The Legal department staff was cut almost in half. (Prior to last year's cuts, it was already half of what it was 10 years or so ago.) Mental Health lost staff members. Within a few weeks of last year's firings, Anthony Fullington hired several new people for his staff. Compensation and benefits were cut for the staff throughout the building, but not for the Executive staff. Marjorie said so herself when she met with the staff. Her reason? "We have to remain competitive for hiring senior management." But look at that statement. "We have to remain competitive for hiring senior management..." But we don't have to be competitive in hiring the staff that will work with our clients? It seems that from the management perspective, anyone is good enough for GMHC clients.
The new location is of enormous importance. Accessibility is vital. Stop the move to the AP building. Demand a space that the clients can get to REASONABLY. Understanding Marjorie's management style and skills is useful as a way to understand how we got to this point and what the problem really is. The agency is too big to be any one thing. It has too many parts and too many people to be any one thing. But it is famous. And the name is respected throughout the community and around the world. Staff members have good working relationships with HASA and Social Security and the Courts and other CBO's throughout the city who also house and feed and care for the same clients. There are problems with management, but the immediate need is an appropriate location.
WHY DO I KEEP UP THIS RELENTLESS CAMPAIGN?
In the couple of months that I have been doing this I have heard from enough GMHC staff and clients to believe that GMHC IS WORTH SAVING but it cannot be saved while the current leadership is around. Here is what I heard that kept me going:
PERSON 11: Thank you for what you have been doing. It has been needed for a long time. When 54 people lost their jobs last year, there was not a peep from the CAB or from any clients. They grumbled when services were curtailed, but that was it. No demonstration, no die-in, no press releases, no expression of anger or even objection. Nothing. Not even the gay press would print a word about it. No one seemed to care. The staff is cautious in all this because we all know we're on our own. It has been heartening to see you come to the defense of our clients. Many in the building are following what you are doing. I'm surprised AEGIS hasn't been blocked yet. You're doing the right thing."
PERSON 12; The question has risen whether GMHC is worth saving. The answer to that is an overwhelming YES. The services that GMHC provides are among the best in the city. Ask the clients how they feel about the staff. Ask the city's agencies what they think about the services GMHC provides. If you do, I feel confident that you will arrive at the same conclusion I've arrived at -- GMHC is worth saving.
SO HERE IS WHAT I THINK:
Having all this, I started thinking: what kind of management and board would enter into a lease like this one that so patently and cavalierly discards most of the clients' services? I don't care how hard it was to locate another space to move to, you don't move anywhere at such a huge cost to what you stand for. You just don't.
Over the last week or so Dr. Hill has been forced into attempting to rectify some of this: suddenly the space that could only serve 30 can now miraculously serve 300. Suddenly the office would be open in the evening. Suddenly Friday night meals that would be canceled would, by magic, be reinstated. No kitchen suddenly segued into convection ovens. The distant public transport would now be gussied up with shuttle buses. The garbage disposal entrance was now "branded," whatever this is meant to mean. She is trying to play some sort of catch up when in fact the game's been lost. Or should be lost.
With their recent revelations, I dispatched to all late on Friday and again on Monday of New York City's own prediction that this entire neighborhood is a distinct and utter threat to public health, because of the just commencing total destruction above ground, in Hudson Yards, and below ground, in the Seventh Avenue subway extension, (now, just discovered, to be joined by the remaking of Moynihan Station). I can't believe that many of the clients will willingly come to this new "home," in so doing so endangering their health. I know I wouldn't go near this new home with the proverbial barge pole. I sure as hell would find another AIDS service organization to feed me regularly.
And then I started thinking: what kind of management and board would not know about these city reports of this desolate and dangerous neighborhood they are contemplating moving into? These reports are available to all on-line. Surely someone in the city itself, in Duane's or Quinn's office, would or should have known about these reports and notified Dr. Hill and GMHC. Or the real estate agent who had rented them the space. Isn't it against the law for a real estate agent not to divulge to potential customers all the information pertaining to the real estate good or bad? Yes, it can be against the law. A lawyer from SkaddenArps told me so. Who is this agent who rented GMHC this space?
And then I started thinking even more: what kind of management and board would and could and did sell David Geffen and Michael Palm and NY Hospital/Cornell Medical Center so blithely down the river? Dr. Hill, again lying about the number of GMHC clients actually using their services, could not understand me when I tried to make her see the following: we are all in this together, this fight. You just don't make a move like this without so much as consulting them, under the misapprehension that they are not your concern just because they are outside-funded. Dr. Gulick, in Paul Schindler's excellent article on this mess in Gay City News, was particularly, and quite understandably irate, at how disdainfully his life-saving operation had been dismissed. Indeed, the work that Drs. Gulick and Jacobs are doing on the ground floor is more important in the long run than much of the work that Dr. Hill is doing upstairs and I'll wager that she'd be hard-pressed to tell you just what it is Dr. Gulick is doing, or she wouldn't have thrown his group so disparagingly to the dogs.
Its leadership no longer loves its clients with the intensity of those of us who started this organization for just these clients. We did not send them legal threats and letters of disempowerment, or exile them from the premises.
And no wonder the clients, hiding in the cracks too afraid to come out lest their food be removed completely, are frightened. No wonder they don't trust her or this organization. Like Dr. Gulick they were about to be sold down the river as well. I would be frightened too. I am frightened. I don't want to destroy this organization I helped to start but it sure sounds like they are doing the job for me and I don't know how to stop it. Or if I should.
And without these clients, or enough of them, GMHC will lose its major source of revenue. They will not only have less Medicaid payments for these patients, they will lose many of the grants that require that they service so many patients. Indeed Dr. Gulick has already warned Dr. Hill of this, and was again dismissed. Dr. Hill does not like answering any uncomfortable questions.
Which brings up the next unpleasant question: there does not appear to have been any feasibility study done on the part of management or the board for this move in the first place. Why not? Isn't this some sort of fiscal responsibility when even contemplating such an undertaking? They have no estimated projection on how many clients might actually come with them. Why there might be so few willing to journey up into this new unhealthy jungle that they will soon not have enough income to pay WNET or Broadway Partners the rent! It's a thought that these chaps might consider.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN FOR GMHC TO SURVIVE?
At this point, one would hope that everyone would come to his or her senses. That Broadway Partners would realize GMHC is not a good fit for its building. That GMHC's board would realize that Dr. Hill is not doing a good enough job and has really, with their own help, screwed this one up big time. And that she and her fellow staff fascists should be asked to leave. And that another CEO must be located who cares about patients and HIV/AIDS with the passion that has long since evaporated on West 24th Street. And that the Board of Directors itself should cleanse itself of all who are not passionate in this required way as well, and will not sit idly by with so little sense of what goes on inside of the organization they are meant to protect. And that with the help of the heretofore totally unhelpful elected officials, Christine Quinn and Tom Duane, we can all proceed to find a new home that would be satisfactory to house the clients this organization was founded to help and nurture and love in the first place.
GMHC can survive this but it will take an exceptional management team and a good stabilization plan - if the staff are assured that their jobs are secure for now and they and clients are invited to help develop a strategy about new space, and management and the board really carry through, GMHC is definitely salvageable. It's got the name and donor base. It owns the "AIDS WALK" so it's still seen as a leading organization in NYC.
OK: A PLAN
Certain things need to be done immediately:
1) resolve the building issue and get rid of the major problem--i.e.: Marjorie, Anthony, and Board members who are solely responsible for the stress, disarray, and disruption of services;
2) then evaluate the program directors and staff and their programs and determine if and where improvement is needed;
3) locate a first-rate person to be an acting CEO. Urvashi Vaid, one of our great leaders, has fortuitously just finished her task of launching the Arcus Foundation. She wants to write a book. Can we implore Urv to put her book on hold for six months while she pulls GMHC together and helps to locate a new space?
4) mobilize political pressure on Tom Duane and Chris Quinn and the Mayor to step in and recruit bad ass lawyers who can help GMHC press the existing landlord to stop being such a jerk. (This had been Urv's suggestion and is in fact her wording.) This landlord should provide a decent and humane extension to the current lease, so GMHC can get into new digs. If he doesn't grant said extension, GMHC should just stay put. Let the landlord sue. A great story it would be.
With regard to Broadway Partners and their lease, at this point I don't think it even matters. The Board should write and say, thanks but no thanks, and if Broadway Partners wants to sue, well, that's another great story, too.
The new building for a new home can and will be found. It is a ridiculous assortment of incompetent attempts that has failed to locate one thus far. The feet of our elected officials must be held to the fire. They have all been so useless so far that surely such public shaming of them must help to motivate them into action.
I KNOW WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE TO CHANGE THE COURSE OF THINGS THAT STAND IN THE WAY OF SURVIVAL FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS. GMHC CLIENTS, STAFF, BOARD MEMBERS MUST TAKE A STAND NOW AND DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY BEFORE ITS TOO LATE. IF NOTHING IS DONE IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS, IF SOMETHING ISN'T STARTED THAT IS POSITIVE, THE GAME IS OVER.