Goes to full board Wednesday night
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After New York Methodist Hospital further tweaked its design plans, Community Board 6's Landmarks/Land Use Committee on Monday voted to conditionally approve zoning variances for the construction of a large ambulatory care facility in Park Slope.
The committee voted 10-5, with one abstaining, to approve the variances, but built in a number of contingencies. The same committee had sent the proposal back to the drawing board on November 21.
NY Methodist spokesperson Lyn Hill described the most recent changes, which encompass two different zones. In the R7B zone, Hill said that NY Methodist "reduced the size of the top; deleted the seventh floor; stepped the Fifth Street façade down, adjacent to neighboring homes; and aligned the street wall with existing buildings."
In the R6B zone, the hospital increased the setback above the fourh floor by 25 feet, Hill said. In addition, the new plans "reduced total garage parking spaces by 189."
"This has been an amazingly thoughtful, open and deliberative process," Craig Hammerman, CB6 District Manager told the Brooklyn Eagle. "A real credit to everyone who has participated."
Opponents, however, say the changes don't go far enough. Longtime Park Slope resident Marvin Ciporen, speaking for the opposition group Preserve Park Slope, told the Eagle, "The board has clearly worked hard trying to figure things out, but more needs to be done. The building needs to be made lower and more compatible with the community."
Ciporen said that professional architects and a former city planner had come up with a less bulky and more efficient plan which would build over the hospital's existing garage, but NY Methodist "would not consider it."
NY Methodist plans to demolish more than a dozen small buildings that it owns in the block between Fifth and Sixth streets and Seventh and Eighth Avenue to build the new Center for Community Health, at 505-525 Sixth Street.
The hospital contends that if it is to remain a successful institution in a changing heath care 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," the hospital said in a statement.
The proposed 500,000 square foot building, with a height of 152 feet, would take up almost the entire block. It would house a surgery center with 12 operating rooms, an endoscopy suite, a cancer center, an after-hours urgent care center and more.
While NY Methodist has somewhat reduced the bulk of the proposed building in this latest go-round, the Landmarks/Land Use Committee said on Monday that the final design must comply with existing height limitations and must attempt to lessen the building's impact on the essential character of the neighborhood.
Besides the parking space reduction, NY Methodist must also continue to participate in a Traffic Task Force organized by Councilmember Lander’s office.
The committee also stipulated that the hospital must "continue participating in design discussions with the Park Slope Civic Council, CB6, and other concerned members of the community as a means to work toward consensus-building on building design issues, including facade designs, exterior materials and treatments" and more. NY Methodist's contractor must participate in a community advisory task force concerning impacts of the demolition and construction phase of the project.
The committee vote is non-binding but will serve as a recommendation to the full board, which is set to vote on it Wednesday night. The proposal then must be approved by the city.
If the variances are not approved by the city, NY Methodist says it has an alternate design that would not require variances. The complying building, Methodist says, would be less efficient, require a longer construction period, and would bring more traffic to Fifth Street.
Some opponents say that NY Methodist should consider taking over Long Island College Hospital (LICH), in Cobble Hill, or Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, both threatened with closure, instead of building a new facility in Park Slope.
"They're trying to shoehorn what they want to grow into a major regional health center into two blocks in a historic district," Ciporen said. "Mayor de Blasio is looking to create a regional plan. LICH [Long Island College Hospital] is about to close, Interfaith [Medical Center] is on life support. We need a coherent plan to address the needs of the borough, not just one institution."
NY Methodist said, however, its ambulatory care center has to be next to its main hospital. "For a hospital outpatient center to function efficiently and appropriately, it must be on or immediately adjacent to the hospital campus," Methodist said in a statement.
NY Methodist adds that since LICH and Interfaith were built many years ago for inpatient use, "It would be prohibitively expensive to acquire these buildings and convert them for outpatient use."