By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) unanimously approved on Tuesday New York Methodist Hospital’s application for a zoning variance for a controversial expansion in Park Slope.
NY Methodist spokesperson Lyn S. Hill said the hospital was “most gratified by the unanimous decision.”
“For nearly a year, the Hospital has worked with our community to advance this project, which will enhance outpatient healthcare for Brooklyn residents, and we have incorporated numerous suggestions and revisions as a result of community input," she said.
She added, “We are especially grateful for the help and support of our elected officials, particularly City Councilmember Brad Lander and Community Board 6, chaired by Daniel Kummer. We look forward to continued engagement with the community as we move forward to complete the exterior design and begin construction.”
In January, after months of back and forth, Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 approved the variances for the expansion, which will create space for ambulatory and outpatient services.
Many local residents still opposed the 500,000 square-foot expansion, however, saying its height — up to 152 feet — and bulk would alter the low-rise character of the neighborhood, as well as drawing increased traffic to surrounding streets. An underground lot would hold roughly 800 to 1,000 vehicles.
Bennett Kleinberg of the community group Preserve Park Slope, which had campaigned against the project, said in a statement on Tuesday, “Because this project has the potential to forever alter the essential character of Park Slope, we will continue to challenge the New York Methodist Hospital’s efforts and hope to work with elected officials and community leaders to modify the current plan.”
PPS supporter Marvin Ciporen called the plan “a defeat for urban planning, careful zoning, and the maintenance of historic districts in addition to harming the delivery of health care services to the most vulnerable Brooklyn residents.”
Opponents also point to the lack of coordination of the delivery of essential health services across the borough. Northwest Brooklyn recently lost its only hospital, Long Island College Hospital (LICH), and patients from LICH’s catchment area have been flooding into NY Methodist, overwhelming its resources and, in some cases, being sent on to other hospitals. NY Methodist’s plan does not call for increasing the number of inpatient beds, however.
Kleinberg noted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign promise to create a “Brooklyn Health Authority” to coordinate decisions regarding healthcare delivery across the borough. As mayor, de Blasio has not acted to create such an authority.
“As a candidate, Mayor de Blasio called for the creation of a Brooklyn Health Authority with power to transform hospitals. Numerous studies have demonstrated that a larger facility in Park Slope will not effectively serve communities that are in danger of losing access to healthcare throughout Brooklyn,” Kleinberg said.
The hospital contends that if it is to remain a successful institution in a changing healthcare landscape, it has to be able to deliver more inpatient services. "Nearly every major medical center in Manhattan has recently or is currently adding an outpatient facility, similar to the one we propose," NY Methodist said in a statement.
The state Department of Health has to approve a Certificate of Need before the expansion. If approved, the new center will take up nearly an entire block. NY Methodist plans to demolish more than a dozen townhouse-style buildings between Fifth and Sixth streets and Seventh and Eighth avenues.
The proposed building would house a surgery center with 12 operating rooms, an endoscopy suite, a cancer center, an after-hours urgent care center and more, and would be 6.25 times the size of the new ambulatory care center planned by Fortis Property Group at LICH in Cobble Hill.
NY Methodist has tweaked the project’s design several times, reducing the size of the top; deleting the seventh floor; stepping the Fifth Street façade down; and aligning the street wall with existing buildings. The number of parking spaces was also reduced by 189.