Bloomberg gift will transform J'lem MDA station

The station will bear his father's name, but that in fact it was "a gift of my father, because he taught my siter and me to help others."

bloomberg kotel 88 (photo credit: )
bloomberg kotel 88
(photo credit: )
Michael R. Bloomberg, the 108th mayor of New York City and the 94th richest person in the world, has personally donated over $1.5 million to make the capital's Magen David Adom station at the entrance to Jerusalem a city landmark and to significantly upgrade its ability to save lives and treat patients. The soft-spoken 64-year-old Republican billionaire arrived on Thursday with his 98-year-old mother Charlotte, his sister Marjorie Tiven and one of his daughters, Emma Bloomberg, to dedicate the cornerstone of the MDA station in memory of his father, William H. Bloomberg, who died when the mayor was just 21. The station, designed by architect Erwin Wiesenthal, will be transformed from a rundown facility built in 1963 to a state-of-the-art blood-collection, first-aid, ambulance-dispatch and training center with pedestrian walkways, access roads and separate parking levels for civilian cars and MDA ambulances, half of which have to be spread around the city because of the lack of space. It will also be accessible to the physically disabled and have a global positioning system control room to monitor ambulance location, which in New York City significantly cut response time. The fact that the businessman, philanthropist and founder of the Bloomberg L.P. financial software service company has given the major donation will encourage others to follow in his footsteps, said Mark Lebow, the president of the American Friends of Magen David Adom - which is raising the money and facilitating the $6.5m. project due to end by December of next year - and Noam Yifrach, MDA's chairman. The facility, which will include a new building and construct additional floors on the adjacent existing station on a hill in the Romema quarter, will be visibile to everyone entering the city from its Western side. Accompanied by Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, whom he welcomed warmly in the Big Apple a few weeks ago, Bloomberg said at the ceremony Thursday that it was an "honor" to be able to contribute to a project that will save lives in Israel. "My mother is thrilled," he said, looking at a beaming diminutive but sturdy Charlotte Bloomberg, in whose honor Michael previously donated a substantial sum to establish a two-storey center at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem. The mayor, who met Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and acting president Dalia Itzik and visited Yad Sarah headquarters later in the day, will be going to Jordan to see King Abdullah on Friday. Bloomberg said the station will bear his father's name, but that in fact it was "a gift of my father, because he taught my siter and me to help others." His father, a Polish Jewish immigrant to the US who died young of rheumatic fever, was a bookkeeper in a dairy in a small Massachusetts town, and though he and his wife cared about the young State of Israel, they didn't have the means to visit. Bloomberg recalled his father's being an air raid warden during World War II and himself playing with his father's hat. He "would have loved [the station] and smiled," he said. An engineer by training who has amassed a fortune of over $5 billion, Bloomberg donated to some 600 projects in the field of health, education and culture last year and expects to do the same in 2007. He has donated over $300m. to Johns Hopkins University's medical and educational work alone. Asked why he has put such stress on public health causes, the mayor said that disease prevention was much more worthwhile than treating disease and injury after they occur, but "it is very hard to raise money for such causes." A former smoker who today is vigorously opposed to tobacco use, Bloomberg donated $125m. from his personal fortune last August to a worldwide anti-smoking initiative designed to curb smoking and introduce anti-smoking measures throughout the globe. At a press conference after the ceremony, he noted proudly that strict anti-smoking legislation in his city influenced numerous US states and other countries to adopt it. Many millions of people have died of smoking, he said, adding that enforcement of the strict rules has raised life expectancy in New York City above that in the US in general. Bloomberg praised Israel, saying that it was a beacon of freedom that "hasn't come free.... We are all concerned about Israel's security," he said, denouncing Hizbullah, Hamas and other terrorist groups for threatening Israel with rockets, missiles and terror. He will visit Sderot and see its own MDA station being rebuilt and upgraded on Friday in a trip aimed at showing solidarity. "As Israel goes, so goes American and freedom in the world to say what we want and decide our own destiny," he declared. Elected to a second term in November 2005 and unable to run again, he was asked by reporters if he had plans to "run for president." Magen David Adom, he joked, "already has a president." But he did say he did not intend to return to run his business software service business, from which he has separated himself completely, or to sell it. He said that Friday the opening of "another Middle East bureau" for Bloomberg L.P. would be announced (apparently in Jordan). He has repeatedly stated his intention to return to a life of philanthropy when his tenure in office expires.