A Clear Vision For Manhattan Eye and Ear

Surely a measure of any great city is the quality of its health care, and since 1869 Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital has been providing New Yorkers with a devoted medical team whose specialists are arguably the best at what they do anywhere in the country. Which is why all city residents should applaud the decision on Dec. 3 by Justice Bernard Fried of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, which prevented the hospital’s board of directors from destroying this venerable East Side institution by selling off the real estate to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Justice Fried acted in response to court papers filed by State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who stepped in when it looked like the hospital’s board was going to get away with taking the easy way out: bury the hospital that their own mismanagement had badly damaged.

The hospital’s superb ophthalmologists, cosmetic and reconstructive surgeons and other extraordinary medical professionals fought the idea of a sale. The problem with Manhattan Eye and Ear, after all, had nothing to do with how patients were being served. Excellence in the operating room was unfortunately matched by incompetence among the board and top management. Administrators ignored staff complaints; they didn’t capitalize on revenue-generating services like modern CAT scanners and M.R.I. machines; their ineptitude caused some terrific doctors to flee. Soon enough, the hospital was filled to just 55 percent of capacity. And in a stunning show of fiduciary myopia, the board shunned the private fund raising that almost every hospital does. While other private hospitals rushed to adapt to the changes brought by managed care, Manhattan Eye and Ear dozed. But the core of doctors remained deeply committed to keeping the place alive.

Now that Justice Fried and Mr. Spitzer have done the right thing, it’s clear that the hospital is ready for a new board and a new administration who have a vision and resources to back that vision. The doctors, patients and the hospital’s proud history deserve no less.

Hillary’s Homeless Hype

The homeless are back in the news. Their advocates rallied in Union Square, Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s handling of those who use the sidewalk as a bedroom, and tired arguments are being trotted out to construct an ideological explanation for the men and women in the street.

The Mayor has found himself defending his order to arrest those considered a danger to public safety. The fact is that he has shown he is willing to try a range of solutions to the homeless problem because he understands that it is a complex issue.

That said, those who are homeless should not be given a pass to commit crimes, from assault to public urination. They ought to be arrested just like anybody else. Most of the homeless have severe psychological problems. This is not simply a benign population. They were dumped on the street when the state closed psychiatric facilities. It helps nobody if they are allowed to remain in the parks. And if a homeless man or woman were to freeze to death, you can bet the same people who are attacking Mr. Giuliani for trying to get them off the streets would assail him for not doing enough.

Many of Mr. Giuliani’s critics have interesting connections to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. It’s the usual crowd of failed politicians and demagogues (the Rev. Al Sharpton, for one) who regard the pre-Giuliani era as some sort of golden age when one could sleep on the sidewalk, commit crimes and menace passers-by without consequences. Predictably, former Mayor David Dinkins has joined the gang-up on Mr. Giuliani.

All the ruckus has drowned out the news that the number of foster children in the city has dropped nearly 30 percent since 1991, partly because adoptions have soared. But don’t expect Mrs. Clinton’s cohorts to give the administration credit for improving children’s lives.

The First Lady, in launching a direct attack on the Mayor, exposes yet another farcical element of her campaign. She says she favors an increase in government subsidies for housing: Well, where has she been during the last seven years? Couldn’t she have made her opinions known to a certain President who is in charge of things like government subsidies?

It’s not hard to see what’s going on here: Those advocates who wish for the bad old days see a chance to wound Mr. Giuliani as he prepares to take on Mrs. Clinton, the shayna maidel “Yenkee” fan. This, however, is an issue that plays to Mr. Giuliani’s strengths, as time will tell.

Think-Tank Tykes

New York parents might want to rethink their obsession with scheduling their young children into a regimen of study, sports and artistic exertion that pretty much wipes out the time for idle daydreaming. A new study indicates that the dreamy kids with wild imaginations often turn out to be the most effective problem solvers later in life.

As reported in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor , two researchers at Case Western Reserve University studied first and second graders as they played with puppets and blocks. They found that the kids with the most evolved fantasy lives, making up lots of different roles and voices, also excelled at “divergent thinking,” defined as “the ability to generate many different ideas about a topic.” In other words, brainstorming. When the same students were tested again in fifth and sixth grade, the “imaginative” children again prevailed in divergent thinking. They also came out on top when it comes to problem-solving under stress, such as what to do when you’ve left your lunch at home. Such a skill might come in handy in all sorts of situations, such as how to handle Mommy and Daddy when you don’t get into Brearley or Collegiate.