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Litigation treatment! Activists sue Methodist over expansion

Game changer: The activist group Preserve Park Slope thinks Methodist could skim a lot of space, in pink, off the top of its expansion and shift it to sit above a parking garage, illustrated in blue in the foreground.
Preserve Park Slope

These Slopers still have some fight left in them.

A Park Slope activist group is suing New York Methodist Hospital in a last-ditch effort to halt the medical center’s planned expansion, which it says will overwhelm the neighborhood with traffic, smog, and out-of-place architecture. The city has approved the project, but the latest attempt to block it is based on the claim, often used by anti-development activists, that an environmental study has to be done before construction can proceed.

“It seems to me that Methodist has not been playing by the rules or following the letter of the law,” said Eve Gartner, a member of Preserve Park Slope, which is bringing the suit. “When you do something this big and fundamentally altering of the community, you need to play by the rules.”

Preserve Park Slope has been doing battle with Methodist for more than a year since the hospital first announced its plan to build an eight-story, U-shaped outpatient center along Fifth Street, Eighth Avenue, and Sixth Street. The new building is slated to include a surgery facility, an urgent-care center, a 300-spot parking garage, and a cancer center, among other facilities.

The Board of Standards and Appeals signed off on the project in June despite a series of detailed counter-arguments by opponents, including a plan they drew up for a lower-slung version of the facility.

The latest offensive seeks to have the approval process voided for supposedly violating laws that require a detailed environmental impact statement created in consultation with multiple government agencies, rather than Methodist’s more cursory environmental assessment.

Healtchare enter: A rendering shows the new building New York Methodist Hospital hopes to build in Park Slope.
New York Methodist Hospital

“A project of this size presumptively requires an EIS, but that wasn’t done here,” Gartner said.

The litigants also claim that Methodist has not shown why the expansion is necessary in the first place.

Methodist tweaked its plans several times before getting city approval, and a spokeswoman for the hospital said the new lawsuit was “without merit” and could stall a project that is vital to the community.

“We are disappointed that a small, special-interest group has chosen to ignore the land use process and file this suit,” Lyn Hill said. “It could delay construction of the Center for Community Health, a facility that will bring much-needed access to cutting-edge outpatient healthcare to Brooklyn residents.”

Methodist has not announced when demolition will begin on the 16 townhouses in the expansion’s footprint, some of them dating to the 19th century, or when construction on the new facility will begin, but there is no indication the lawsuit has slowed the process so far. A search of property records turned up no demolition permits on any of the threatened townhouses. The Department of Buildings would have to approve such permits before work could start.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Endangered: These brownstones are among those facing the wrecking ball to make way for the outpatient center.
New York Methodist Hospital

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