Elected officials, patients, clergy and medical staff held a unity news conference and rally Thursday in support of the Soundview Healthcare Network and its founder, embattled former state senator Pedro Espada. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.
Almost two months ago, Senator Pedro Espada was read his charges in federal court. On Thursday, a trio sang to him at a party at his clinic. His political career all but demolished and his freedom in jeopardy, Espada tried to say everything's okay.
"This is an agency and a program that is on the move," Espada said.
On the move, except that neither Espada nor his son can be paid a salary, not by Medicaid dollars at least, which are the lifeblood of his inner-city medical centers.
But Espada says for some mysterious reason, $3 million he was promised to relocate across the street has been held up -- maybe because of all the negative attention he's getting.
"So we decided to have a press conference and we thank you for being here - that stresses where Soundview is really at in terms of its activities, providing services, and attracting new funding opportunities," Espada said.
The former state senator is so bent on projecting an air of normalcy that he insists the holdup on the money has nothing to do with his legal problems.
Josh Robin: Since this happened to you, nothing has changed financially?
Pedro Espada: Quite the contrary, I think a lot of great positive things are happening because patients have rallied behind us, elected officials have rallied behind us.
The state health department canceled the $3 million grant when the feds started the probe against Espada. And while Medicaid can flow to the clinic itself, the same can't be said for the salaries of Espada and his son.
In any case, investors in any new Espada endeavor may have reason to be cautious. Authorities charge he bought window treatments, Broadway shows, and even tried to put a down payment on a Bentley -- all on a clinic card or from the center's coffers.
Espada insists he's innocent and his backers say at least he should be presumed as such.
"You already are saying that Pedro Espada is guilty," said State Senator Ruben Diaz Jr.
What isn't in dispute is the clinic could use a renovation. Its paint is peeling and the equipment seems wanting even as the staff serves New York's neediest.