The Lincoln Hospital Offensive
July 17, 1970

It was early dawn on July 17, 1970 when about 100 young men and women entered through the windows and doors of Lincoln Hospital in New York City and literally took it over. They met no resistance from the staff and were heartily welcomed by the patients. They were representatives of a community fed up with the disgraceful neglect by city government of the health of its citizens. The Young Lords decided that enough was enough. If things were to change, they would have to do the changing.

The Lincoln Hospital takeover was the Young Lords' third major offensive, and it came just 12 days before the group's one-year anniversary. The incidents that led up to this action could, and still can, be seen in almost any inner-city hospital. Lincoln Hospital was the only major health institution that served the large South Bronx community of Puerto Ricans and African Americans. The hospital, which was run by the Albert Einstein Medical College, was more preoccupied with the testing of new medical equipment, training of medical students, and continued payment of the city government for running the health center than with helping patients. The community faced large instances of lead poison, tuberculosis, pneumonia and asthma. Patients were not getting the care they needed and were kept completely misinformed, or not informed at all, by doctors.

The living conditions most of the people in the Bronx area were just as bad. Aside from the health hazards created by old and decrepit buildings not taken care of by their landlords, the cheap paint used by greedy owners eventually caused lead poisoning in a large percent of the inhabitants. Lack of heat also complicated matters and was a primary cause of pneumonia and asthma. All these problems existed, and Lincoln Hospital did nothing.

The Young Lords and a group called the HRUM, Health Revolutionary Unity Movement established a ten point health programcalling for, among other things, community-worker control health institutions, lead poison and anemia testing, and day care centers. The Young Lords also received and reported to the city government hundreds of complaints directed at the Lincoln Hospital facilities. Since the hospital failed to respond, the group decided to take stronger measures. If the city and the staff were not going to help the sick, then the Young Lords believed it was up to the community to do so.

During the early morning hours of July 14, 1970, the Young Lords and a patient-worker group called Think Lincoln Committee took over Lincoln Hospital. During the twenty-four hour takeover, the Young Lords ran health programs in a building the hospital was not even using. There, they held TB and lead poison detection and set up a day care center that would later be put to service. Eventually, the police surrounded the hospital and the Young Lords left peacefully. The offensive exposed the terrible conditions seen in inner-city hospitals. The building Lincoln Hospital was in had been condemned by the city twenty years before and nothing had been done. To address this problem, the group got a promise from then Mayor John Lindsay to construct a new hospital on East 149th Street.

In the end, the takeover of Lincoln Hospital was a victory for the community!