New York Methodist Hospital has scaled down its controversial expansion slightly ahead of a second audience with Park Slope’s community board tonight, but the revised plans have few fans amongst persistent project foes.
The hospital will present a new design, which shortens the appearance of the U-shaped medical complex in a few places, to Community Board 6’s land use committee, the same group that nixed an earlier zoning variance proposal in late November after dozens of audience members inveighed against it, saying it would clog the tree-lined streets with smog and bumper-to-bumper traffic. The latest tweaks, which pull back parts of the upper glass facade on the eight-story building slated for Fifth Street, Eighth Avenue, and Sixth Street, and additional documents the hospital has published since the no-vote, outlining why the outpatient medical center is a good idea, have done little appease opposition activists.
“These cosmetic changes do nothing to alter the way this structure will dominate the neighborhood or relieve the traffic congestion that 1,000 additional cars on our streets will cause,” said Bennett Kleinberg, president of the group Preserve Park Slope. “The hospital seems to completely disregard the fact that Park Slope is comprised of low-rise, residential buildings.”
The latest plan moves back the three-story glass facade along Fifth Street that makes up floors five through seven and similarly reins in part of the upper glass shell closest to the intersection of Fifth Street and Eighth Avenue.
As far as traffic impact goes, the hospital says it only has to prove that the proposed Center for Community Health would have no worse an effect than a taller, narrower version of the same facility that it would be allowed to build as-of-right, or without city permission. The community board, for its part, says it is giving the hospital a second shot because it has been acting in good faith. Methodist, of course, concurs, pointing out that it has made more than 20 changes to the plans in response to community comments. But anti-expansion protesters are unappeased.
“They have been very disingenuous in the whole process,” said Eighth Avenue resident Marvin Ciporen.
The hospital says it does not have enough testing space in its emergency department and needs to expand in other areas, such as radiation oncology, according to revised legal documents posted on the hospital’s website on Dec. 20.
Tonight, the board’s land use committee will proffer a second opinion on the healthcare center, which would replace 16 townhouses. The whole board will then vote on Jan. 8 about whether to recommend the plan to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals. The board’s vote is strictly advisory and the city has final say.