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New York Methodist Hospital says alternate expand plan a nonstarter

Battle of the blueprints! Methodist and anti-expansion activists square off

Get in where you fit in: Some of the 16 townhouses that New York Methodist Hospital is planning to demolish ahead of its planned expansion.
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New York Methodist Hospital unveiled even more tweaks to its planned expansion at a city hearing on Tuesday, but said there is no way it could follow an alternate blueprint drawn up by activists.

The rejiggering marks the fourth time the hospital has gone back to the drawing board for its planned Center for Community Health, an eight-story U-shaped complex that activists say will clog the neighborhood with traffic, smog, and out-of-place architecture. Hospital reps presented the latest revision, which pulls back the upper floors of the complex further from the road, at a Board of Standards and Appeals hearing, arguing that the changes make the compound fit in better with the tree-lined residential blocks it will occupy on Fifth Street, Eighth Avenue, and Sixth Street.

“These modifications result in a building that is in keeping with the character of the neighborho­od,” Methodist senior vice president Lauren Yedvab said.

The hospital rejected an alternate plan by activists that called for shifting the bulk from the top few floors of the center above its adjacent parking garage. Activists argued that the scheme would serve the hospital’s needs just fine and that the city should force it to follow their plan because it is closer to the current zoning.

“Since this alternative is clearly doable, the plan presented by Methodist to the [Board of Standards and Appeals] is not the minimum variances necessary, and the board has no basis on which to grant the variance,” said Bennett Kleinberg, president of Preserve Park Slope.

A hospital architect countered that the activists’ plan would require even more city approvals than Methodist’s. The alternate plan would also require a boiler plant at the top of the center and a patient drop-off entrance on Fifth Street that would draw even more traffic, according to the architect.

“It is impossible to build the scheme that they are proposing,” said Frank Gunther of the architectural firm Perkins Eastman.

A Methodist rep said the hospital will go into further detail about the latest modifications and further explain why it cannot adopt Preserve Park Slope’s plan by May 20, when the city is expected to vote on whether to grant Methodist the variances.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
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Reasonable discourse

Gary Shaffer from Park Slope says:
Ms. Riesz misses a critical aspect of the opposition to Methodist's current proposal. Methodist is entitled to build whatever it wants on the land it owns as long as it complies with existing zoning laws. However, if it wants to do more than that - which it does - it must show it is entitled to a variance. Methodist has submitted nothing to date establishing it is entitled to that variance. The legal papers it submitted to the City's Board of Standards and Appeals make reference to the changing nature of the medical delivery system in the U.S., but that alone is not a basis for a variance, and it provided no substantiated information as to why it should be permitted to build anything beyond what it is already allowed. To the extent Methodist submitted patient "projections" to the Board, there was no information as to how those projections were determined. Whether they were simply made up is impossible to tell, but the numbers certainly had no legal significance whatsoever. They hid this somewhat cleverly but a review of the hospital's submissions, especially Section G to the hospital's EAS, makes this quite clear. The failure to provide the most basic information necessary should bother everyone in the neighborhood, since there is no way to tell what in fact the consequences of building will really be. The Board either chose to avoid or more likely failed to understand the significance of this, and the hospital's presentation was artfully designed to hide this in their submission. However, they will not be able to hide it from court review.
April 11, 2014, 12:27 am

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