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BY ALBERT AMATEAU | The first of three design sessions for the proposed triangle park and AIDS memorial across from the Rudin redevelopment of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital property takes place on April 25.
The public session, sponsored by the Parks Committee of Community Board 2, with Rudin Management and the AIDS Memorial Park coalition, will consider designs for a 16,000-square-foot park, including a 1,600-square-foot commemoration of the AIDS epidemic and the now-shuttered hospital that pioneered in care for AIDS patients.
“We’re collaborating as members of a single team on the charrette,” said Tobi Bergman, chairperson of the C.B. 2 Parks Committee. The word, “charrette” is an architect’s term for the handcart of plans that architects take to design sessions.
“A charrette is a wonderful chance to bring together a variety of ideas and public voices. I’m looking forward to it,” said Michael Seltzer, a member of AIDS Memorial Park a.k.a. AMP, adding that the coalition’s architect, Studio a + i, of Brooklyn, has been working on park designs with Richard Parisi, of MPFP, Rudin’s landscape architect.
“It’s a very important issue for us and we’re excited about this opportunity to contribute to the park design,” said Brad Hoylman, chairperson of Board 2.
The session next Wednesday in the St. Anthony’s Church basement hall, 155 Sullivan St., will be followed by one on May 30 and another on June 27, Hoylman said.
“The first meeting will concentrate on getting community input to set the stage for the May and June charrettes,” Hoylman said.
On July 9, a joint meeting of the C.B.2 Landmarks and Parks committees will consider designs that emerge from the three charrettes and make a recommendation to the full board, which will vote on a final design on July 19.
On March 28, the City Council approved a revised Rudin plan for the entire redevelopment, brokered by Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The revised plan included an agreement resolving a conflict between an AIDS Memorial Park-sponsored design for the triangle and a design by Rudin’s designer, Parisi, which the community board had approved.
The agreement, the basis for the current collaboration, called for removing the oxygen tanks on the northwest corner of the triangle at W. 12th St. and Greenwich Ave. to make room for the 1,600-square-foot AIDS memorial. But the agreement eliminated a 10,000-square-foot underground space that formerly led to a tunnel that connected the triangle to the now-shuttered hospital on the east side of Seventh Ave. Removal of the underground space allows for a park at street level with an open view.
“The goal of the charrette will be to marry the two designs, making sure they comply with the parameters of the agreement,” Hoylman said.
“We’re disappointed that the underground space is off the table,” said Seltzer. “We wanted it for exhibition and educational space. But we’re excited about getting to this point and working with Parisi on a beautiful neighborhood park with a more conventional memorial to the AIDS epidemic,” Seltzer said.
Chris Tepper, a founder of AMP with Paul Kelterborn, said, “We’re thrilled to be involved in what will be a significant memorial integrated into a truly public park once it is built out. It’s what we want, what Rudin wants and what neighbors want.”
As part of the St. Vincent’s redevelopment project, Rudin agrees to pay for construction of the triangle park on the west side of Seventh Ave., across W. 12th St. from the former hospital’s O’Toole Pavilion. North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System will convert the pavilion into a $110 million community health center and 24/7 emergency department, including a $10 million contribution from Rudin.
The revised redevelopment plan also calls for residential conversion of the existing Reiss building on W. 12th St. on the main east campus of the former hospital.
In the original redevelopment plan submitted in 2009, Reiss was to be demolished and replaced with a new 12-story residential building.
At a C.B. 2 Landmarks Committee meeting on Monday, Dan Kaplan of FXFOWLE, architects for the Rudin project, outlined plans for converting Reiss, built for St. Vincent’s in 1955, to residential use.
Because the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission had approved the entire Rudin project in 2009, including the Reiss replacement, the conversion of the old building and its inclusion in the residential project must also get Landmarks approval.
Kaplan said the converted Reiss building would be 5 percent smaller — 3,500 square feet less — than the previously planned replacement. Moreover, an underground garage for 152 parking spaces planned for the replacement will be reduced to 95 spaces in the garage to be built under the converted Reiss building.
“We’re delighted to see that Reiss will be adapted. We’re very supportive of this,” said Trevor Stewart, a resident of W. 12th St. and a member of Protect the Village Historic District, a group that has been critical of the Rudin project.
Plans for adapting Reiss call for replacing the central portion of the building’s brick facade. Paul Ullman, another resident of W. 12th St., demanded to know about contingency plans in case the facade collapses during the replacement.
John Gilbert, chief operating officer of Rudin Management, acknowledged that there are no such plans.
“It’s our job to see that doesn’t happen,” Gilbert said of a facade collapse. He noted that Reiss has steel-frame construction.
“As a risk manager, I know that bad things can happen,” Ullman said. “We’re concerned about a change in plans [to preserve Reiss] should a disaster occur,” he added.
Gilbert said he would look into the issue and respond to Ullman.