RED HOOK — A plan to build a 200-bed nursing home in a Red Hook flood zone may collapse Thursday unless the neighborhood's local councilman reverses his opposition to the project.
For more than a decade, Oxford Nursing Home, currently based in Fort Greene, has been developing a $65 million plan to build an eight-story nursing home at 141 Conover St.
Oxford purchased the property in Red Hook 13 years ago, but in order to construct and operate its new facility, the land must be rezoned from manufacturing to a mixed-use district with both residential and manufacturing through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
The proposed nursing home would offer long-term care for the elderly and short-term rehabilitation as well as a 24-hour urgent care center for the public. If approved, construction would begin in 2017 and completed in 2019.
Oxford is currently at risk of losing its existing nursing home facility in Fort Greene, because the building does not meet state code, and may have to close altogether if their plan for Red Hook falls through.
The healthcare provider received approval from Community Board 6 last year after the board felt that services for the elderly were a growing need in the area. Last week, the City Planning Commission also approved the rezoning.
Now Oxford faces its next step — a vote by the City Council's subcommittee on zoning and franchises — but the unwavering opposition of Councilman Carlos Menchaca could thwart its plans.
Menchaca's concerns revolve around the resiliency of the nursing home, which would be built in Red Hook's flood zone. As local councilman, his support for the project is generally considered crucial for City Council approval.
"This ULURP application will end with a no vote at the City Council. I do not support removing manufacturing zoning to accommodate a nursing home in a Flood Zone-A area for vulnerable homebound seniors," he said late last year. "That would be irresponsible of us particularly in the wake of Superstorm Sandy."
While many residents agree that the plan is too risky for flood-prone Red Hook, several community members have also spoken in favor of the project, including both tenant association presidents for NYCHA's Red Hook Houses and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Some community members have spoken in favor of the project for the roughly 100 jobs it would bring and emergency care services.
Menchaca's office did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, though Oxford's attorney Howard Weiss said the councilman refuses to back the project despite their attempts to convince him otherwise.
"I can't know at the end of the day whether we will be able to satisfy him completely," Weiss said.
On Tuesday, the City Council's subcommittee on zoning and franchises held a public hearing on the application, where supporters and experts testified in favor of the project, but Menchaca expressed derision.
The subcommittee is expected to vote Thursday morning. That will be followed by a review and vote by the full committee.
But without the rezoning, Oxford may have to shutter entirely.
Oxford continues to operate in the Fort Greene building because of waivers granted by the state Department of Health as it moves through the process of building its Red Hook facility. Yet if it loses the ability to build on the site, it may lose the Fort Greene space soon after, attorneys said.
There are currently 223 residents at Oxford Nursing Home's building on South Oxford Street. If approved, patients would be given the option of moving to Oxford's new facility once constructed.
In anticipation of the move, Oxford will also stop admitting new patients a few months prior, assistant administrator Sam Feuer said.
Weiss and his team are frantically working to change Menchaca's mind and capture his support. Oxford has also offered to sign a restrictive covenant that they say would prevent residential development at the site.
The attorneys met with the councilman Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of a possible vote by the subcommittee on Thursday — but the outcome appeared bleak.
"We left the meeting with him not indicating that he had changed his position,” Weiss said.