Saudi king reportedly interested in St. Vincent's for mosque, hospital

A New York City lawyer with ties to the Saudi royal family has floated a trial balloon about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's interest in buying up St. Vincent's Medical Center and reopening most of its units, the New York Post reports.

Another part of the plan, attorney Dudley Gaffin mentioned to a community leader, would involve transferring the much-debated "Ground Zero" mosque to a new Islamic cultural center on the St. Vincent site. The king reportedly wants to snap up St. Vincent's Hospital and move the mosque away from the World Trade Center site "to show that Muslims can do good works," according to the source.

The buzz, according to sources, is that Gaffin's motives are actually to gauge possible public reaction and prepare a bid to go head to head with Rudin Management, which has expressed interest in buying up St. Vincent's and replacing the hospital with luxury housing.

The price tag for St. Vincent's would be at least $300 million, which owner Sisters of Charity, owes its biggest creditors. Money would not pose an obstacle to the king, who is worth more than $20 billion.

King Abdullah is not unfamiliar with the New York hospital scene. Late last month, he took over the entire VIP wing at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center after back surgery. He has also donated to the hospital.

Sources for the Post's story included a community leaders who wanted to remain anonymous and a politically connected lawyer. Gaffin also sought advice on the issue from a former council member and discussed the plan to Coalition for a New Village Hospital, a group of doctors and nurses who are trying to resurrect St. Vincent's, according to the Post's sources.

While those sources said Gaffin claimed he had broached the issue with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city council speaker, their respective spokespeople denied the claim.

According to DNAinfo, the Post has yet to confirm the King Abdullah plan or the Bloomberg meeting.

To learn more:
- read the Village Voice blog
- here's the New York Post article that  broke the story
- check out the DNAinfo piece

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