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NY Methodist Hospital's Controversial Expansion Project Up for Vote

By Leslie Albrecht | February 10, 2014 5:42pm
 New York Methodist Hospital released revised renderings of its expansion plan on Jan. 2, 2014.
NY Methodist Releases Revised Renderings
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PARK SLOPE — Opponents of the New York Methodist Hospital plan to build a new 9-story building will make a last ditch effort Tuesday to convince officials that the massive expansion will overwhelm a mostly residential neighborhood.

The neighborhood group Preserve Park Slope is urging neighbors to testify at Tuesday's Board of Standards and Appeals hearing, where the BSA will vote on the expansion.

Locals have sharply criticized the new building, which is called the Center for Community Health and will house mainly outpatient services. The 495,500 square-foot building will bring about 100,000 new patients to the neighborhood annually.

"Aside from the fact that you'd have a structure that’s totally not contextual with the community, you’re going to have tremendous increase in traffic and congestion in places that are already choke points, right next to where thousands of kids go to school," said local resident Marvin Ciporen, an opponent of the project.

The new building will span most of the block between Seventh and Eighth avenues and Fifth and Sixth streets, next to the John Jay Educational Complex that's home to four high schools.

The BSA must approve a set of zoning variances for the hospital to go ahead with the version of the expansion it wants to build. But even a "no" vote by the BSA wouldn't stop the expansion, because the hospital already has the right to construct it. If the BSA doesn't approve the zoning variances, the hospital will build the new Center for Community Health in a slightly different configuration, hospital officials have said.

Even though opponents' testimony at the BSA will do little to change the hospital's expansion plan, Ciporen said it's worth it for locals to speak out.

He noted that New York Methodist made changes to the project — including reducing the height and changing the façade color — after a public outcry this past fall. He's hoping that steady pressure from neighbors will keep the hospital accountable to the community.

"The hope is that the BSA process would get them to stop a minute and say, 'Maybe we got off on the wrong foot and things can be done better,'" Ciporen said. "The reality is that that some of the tweaks have happened only happened because the community didn’t roll over."

Community Board 6 in January voted to approve the project, but only if the hospital meets a set of conditions. The community board asked Methodist to keep the building's height under neighborhood zoning limits, make an entrance on Eighth Avenue and Sixth Street for employees only, and cut the number of parking spaces by at least 189 spaces, among other requests.

The hospital has said that the new Center for Community Health is essential for its long-term survival. The building will house outpatient services, including 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.

"After over six months of working with our community to fine-tune our plans, we believe we have an excellent proposal and we are confident that the Board of Standards and Appeals will be persuaded to grant the variances we need to build New York Methodist Hospital’s Center for Community Health," hospital spokesman Lyn Hill said in an email.

Hill added that the hospital "looks forward to continued interaction" with locals regarding the new building's exterior design, traffic and parking issues.

The Board of Standards and Appeals public hearing session starts at 10 a.m. on  Tuesday Feb. 11 at 22 Reade St., Spector Hall. Click here for the session agenda.