Volume 77 / Number 46 - April 16 - 22, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Commissioners grill St. Vincent’s on rebuild plans

By Albert Amateau

The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s second round of hearings on the St. Vincent’s Hospital/Rudin redevelopment plan ended Tuesday after four a half hours with commissioners grilling hospital officials about many aspects of the project.

Commissioners asked why the hospital/residential project did not even give a nod to the possibility of adapting the eight existing hospital buildings on the east side of Seventh Ave. for residential use, instead of demolishing them.

And even though L.P.C. is concerned only with the project’s appropriateness for the Greenwich Village Historic District, commissioners wanted to know what zoning requests would be submitted to the City Planning Commission to accommodate the new buildings.

Commissioners focused on possible options to reduce the height of the proposed 330-foot-tall proposed new hospital on St. Vincent’s O’Toole Building site on the west side of Seventh Ave. Why not build part of the hospital on the triangle on the south side of W. 12th St. with a bridge to the O’Toole site was one suggestion.

It was a suggestion hospital officials deemed impractical if not impossible and would transform one block of W. 12th St. into “a tunnel,” they said.

Commissioners also wanted to know about the bankruptcy that St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers emerged from last year and how it affected the current plan, which calls for the sale of the present hospital property on the east side of Seventh Ave. to Rudin for residential development to fund part of the cost of a new 21st-century high-tech hospital across the avenue.

Shelly Friedman, land-use lawyer for the project, responded to many issues, and Henry Amoroso, St. Vincent’s chief executive officer, responded to others.

Robert Tierney, head of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said at the end of the hearing that the commission would schedule a meeting sometime in the first two weeks of May to ask more questions of St. Vincent’s and to receive responses to questions left unanswered.

Brad Hoylman, Community Board 2 chairperson, said later that he was grateful the commission held a second hearing on April 15 after the marathon eight-hour hearing on April 1.

“The thoughtful questioning by the commissioners suggests a healthy degree of skepticism about key aspects of the St. Vincent’s proposal, including height, bulk and lack of adaptive reuse of the historic buildings,” said Hoylman, a frequent critic of the plan. “It appears we’re at the beginning stages of a rather complex negotiation where, hopefully, community concerns will play a large part.”

Bernadette Kingham-Bez, St. Vincent’s vice-president for community relations, said later the L.P.C. commissioners’ questions reflected the fact that the project is “a complex proposal about the complex delivery of healthcare.” She added, “I felt the questions were very focused on the context of the plan, and I felt we responded to most of them and we will submit written response later.”

Andrew Berman, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation executive director, said later, “The commissioners asked some tough questions that reflect a deep level of discomfort with the plan. We’ve now had two landmarks hearings where the testimony was 8 to 1 opposed to the plan. I hope it has the desired effect — not to stop the hospital, but to get a better plan.”




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