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New York Methodist Unveils Revised Expansion Plan, Locals Not Satisfied

By Leslie Albrecht | September 27, 2013 9:09am
 New York Methodist Hospital unveiled changes to its proposed expansion in response to community concerns.
New York Methodist Unveils Revised Expansion Plan
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PARK SLOPE — New York Methodist Hospital tried to quell criticism of its proposed expansion by unveiling a revised design Thursday night, but residents still gave the plan a thumbs down.

Architects reworked the look and shape of the outpatient services center the hospital wants to build between Seventh and Eighth avenues and Fifth and Sixth streets in response to feedback locals gave after Methodist first presented its expansion plan in July.

The new design, presented at a Community Board 6 meeting, puts the highest point of the building on Sixth Street, instead of on Eighth Avenue, and eliminates a Fifth Street driveway for cars picking up patients. Now all pick-up and drop-off traffic would be on Sixth Street.

Architect Peter Cavaluzzi said the look of the building was inspired by Park Slope's "architectural DNA," and would no longer "overwhelm" Eighth Avenue, a residential block.

"We've tried to take your comments and shape and form the buildings in a way so it's more sympathetic to the shapes, the heights of surrounding buildings...and fits better within the overall neighborhood," Cavaluzzi said.

One resident called that assertion "baloney," and some questioned how the building's terra cotta color would look in the middle of brownstone-filled Park Slope.

Residents also raised concerns about the building's impacts. During an hour of public comment, residents repeatedly burst into applause when neighbors grilled hospital officials about exactly how the new building — and the patients and staff that would go along with it — will affect the neighborhood.

The new outpatient center would have 12 surgical suites, an endoscopy suite with six procedure rooms, a cancer center, an after-hours urgent care center, physician offices and a conference center. About 15 hospital-owned buildings, including some brownstones, will be torn down to make way for the new center.

Sixth Street resident Valerie Zilbersher slammed the expansion, saying it amounted to dropping a Walmart into Park Slope. "It's essentially putting a huge commercial complex in the middle of a low-density residential neighborhood, and they have not figured out what the impacts will be," Zilbersher said.

Zilbersher said Sixth Street residents have for years put up with hospital-related headaches such as idling ambulances and double-parked livery cabs, and the new building would only worsen those problems.

One man said Sixth Street was already clogged with traffic, and the hospital's expansion would turn it into a "disaster" — a line that drew a round of applause from the dozens of residents in attendance.

Frustrated Eighth Avenue resident Marvin Ciporen peppered hospital officials with questions about numbers: How high is the new building? How many patients and staff will use it? How many people would use an entrance to the building proposed for Eighth Avenue and Fifth Street?

Hospital spokeswoman Lyn Hill said the number of people using the new building would be "less than you think...it's not a vast huge increase." She noted that there would be no increase in the number of hospital beds and the number of ambulances wasn't expected to go up either.

As for building heights, the Eighth Avenue side of the new building will be six stories, but the top two stories will be set back about 15 feet so they're not visible from below. The height of the first four floors would be 60 feet from sidewalk to top, and the two additional floors on top of that would add another 25 or 30 feet, Cavaluzzi said.

The highest part of the building would be a 132-foot-high section in the middle of Sixth Street, next to Wesley House, a 12-story apartment building where resident physicians live, Cavaluzzi said.

One angry resident said there were "fundamental problems" with Methodist's presentation, because it failed to address how the new building would affect the neighborhood beyond Fifth Street, Sixth Street and Eighth Avenue.

"There is so much more of an impact…I want to see what you’re looking at for the whole neighborhood," the resident said. "I want to see what your plans are to deal with the fact that you’ve got three schools [near the hospital] and hundreds of school children moving back and forth."

Still others questioned what Methodist's expansion will mean boroughwide. "How does this project impact the larger hospital situation in Brooklyn?" asked hospital neighbor Bennett Kleinberg. "How will it help people that rely on Long Island College Hospital and Interfaith Medical Center?"

There will be another public meeting about New York Methodist's expansion hosted by the Park Slope Civic Council on Monday, Sept. 30 at  6:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Elohim, 274 Garfield Pl.