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Hospital for Special Surgery Unveils Plans for New Building

By Amy Zimmer | June 14, 2012 8:31am
The Hospital for Special Surgery proposed ambulatory care facility seen from East 74th Street.
The Hospital for Special Surgery proposed ambulatory care facility seen from East 74th Street.
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DNAinfo/Amy Zimmer

UPPER EAST SIDE — The Hospital for Special Surgery unveiled plans Wednesday to build a 207,000-square-foot, 13-story ambulatory care facility.

The new glassy structure stretching from East 73rd to 74th streets, between York Avenue and the FDR Drive, would rise just three blocks north of the hospital's main building on East 70th Street, which recently got a five-story addition.

The proposed building would included three floors of operating rooms for ambulatory surgeries — where patients stay up to 23 hours — along with a floor for recovery.

Many hospitals on the East Side are building ambulatory care facilities.

Last year, the Hospital for Special Surgery performed 12,000 ambulatory surgeries and 14,000 in-patient surgeries, said Deborah Sale, executive vice president of external affairs for HSS, during a presentation to Community Board 8. The board voted overwhelmingly to approve the project.

The new building would free up ambulatory operating rooms in the main building, which would be renovated — and made larger — to accommodate more in-patient procedures. HSS already moved or is in the process of moving 8,000 minor surgeries to a recently completed facility on East 75th Street, Sale noted.

Because the hospital wants this new building to be taller and larger than allowable, it is seeking a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals. For instance, an extra six feet for the building would give it an extra 35,000 square feet of useful space, Sale said.

The hospital is also seeking to increase the number of permitted parking spaces on-site from 33 to 98 so it can be "as self-contained," as possible, Sale said, noting that the facility didn’t want to clog garages in the area.

The institution completed its first step in the public approval process by appearing before the community board.

"We have built only when the pressure is so great that we have to expand," Sale said.

"We think it is not out of character with the neighborhood," she added of the proposed building. "We want to make it as light as it can be and fit into the context of the block."

The hospital would be moving to a manufacturing block, displacing longtime auto-repair facilities and a year-old orthopedic device company (which, ironically, works with HSS patients).

Gary Gartenberg, owner of Marmin Collision Specialists, which was established in 1958 and has been on East 73rd Street since 1996, asked Sale when the hospital expected to start construction. He has three years left on his lease at the spot.

"This is not a building that's going to be built tomorrow," she said. "We respect your lease."

She said the BSA application said construction wouldn't start until 2014, though Sale anticipates it wouldn’t actually start until 2015.

She estimated it would take six months for demolition and remediation, and then the actual construction would last another 18 months.

Board member Elaine Walsh expressed concern for the loss of the manufacturing block, saying, "It really changes the nature of what the community can offer to its residents and small businesses." But she ultimately voted to support the plans.

Some residents expressed concern over traffic the new facility would bring. Sale acknowledged traffic would increase on East 73rd and 74th streets, but she noted that it would be relieved around the main building on East 70th Street since nearly half of the surgeries conducted there will be moved out.

Another medical institution is expected to rise next door to the Hospital for Special Surgery’s proposed building. The city solicited bids for a developer to build on the former sanitation facility on the adjacent site, in exchange for providing the city with property for a garage housing the trucks, street sweepers and snowplows.

A winning bid has not yet been announced.