Volume 76, Number 53 | May 30 - June 5, 2007


St. Vincent’s plan’s huge consequences

 St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers’ recent announcement that it is partnering with the Rudin family to develop a new main hospital building, while selling off most of its Greenwich Village campus for private development has enormous implications for the both the city’s healthcare and our historic neighborhood.

By intending to take its 800,000 square feet of hospital facilities in roughly 11 existing buildings and combine it all on one small block — the current O’Toole Building site between 12th and 13th Sts. on Seventh Ave. S. — the hospital obviously would be building a far larger structure on this site. Currently, O’Toole is approximately 175,000 square feet, and St. Vincent’s wants the new building to be 600,000 to 650,000 square feet — around three-and-a-half times larger than O’Toole.

According to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, if this new building were built straight up on the site, with no setbacks, it would have to be, at minimum, 17 stories tall. This triangular spot is a key location in the heart of the Village and any project there must be carefully considered for how it impacts on the Greenwich Village Historic District, in which the site is located.

There’s also concern there will be an increase in overall allowable bulk under the plan: that the building on the O’Toole site will be much larger while the residential development on the east side of Seventh Ave. S. will be as big, if not bigger, than the existing buildings.

St. Vincent’s is an absolutely critical medical facility, not only for Greenwich Village, but for the entire Lower West Side and Midtown West. It serves a growing population and major activity centers like Madison Square Garden, the Javits Center and Penn Station. Clearly, medical technology is rapidly changing and hospitals must keep pace.

We’re glad to see that a community working group has been meeting on a regular basis since January to discuss St. Vincent’s plans and offer input. Hopefully, a plan will emerge from this process that will satisfy both St. Vincent’s needs and the community’s concerns.

It’s true that this project, which also will include a massive demolition component, will transform the Village as we know it. Perhaps the hospital will come to see that all its facilities don’t need to be clustered together in a tower on one site. It may be possible to sell off a little less of its property on the east side of Seventh Ave. S. and keep some hospital uses there.

Clearly, St. Vincent’s has embarked on a bold plan to ensure its financial and technological viability, and we are glad St. Vincent’s has come to the community early to vet these plans. We’re hearing positive things about initial meetings St. Vincent’s has had with architecture firms about what a new all-in-one hospital building might look like — that it must be contextual. “Contextual” also means fitting in in terms of scale. Achieving this is where the hard work lies.

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