Methodist expansion inches ahead

Metho-discuss: Hospital unveils design tweaks ahead of Round 2 at community board
New York Methodist Hospital

A Park Slope hospital’s controversial expansion plan can move forward, but not without even more tweaking and some guarantees, a local panel said on Monday night.

The land use committee of Park Slope’s Community Board 6 voted 10 to 5 in favor of New York Methodist Hospital’s latest proposal for a U-shaped outpatient center on Fifth Street, Eighth Avenue and Sixth Street, but outlined a laundry list of demands that the panel says will ensure the new facility will be as un-intrusive as possible.

At the top of the group’s list is the hope that the building won’t be taller than present zoning allows.

Committee members want to lock in the hospital’s new design that moves back the upper, three-story glass facade along Fifth Street and reins in part of the upper glass shell close to the intersection of Fifth Street and Eighth Avenue, making the building closer to zoning compliance. But the committee also demanded that the hospital reduce the height of the part of the building that would line Fifth Street, saying Methodist should get no other breaks if it does not make that alteration.

The committee also asked that the hospital keep its promises to cut the number of parking spaces in its garage by 189, only let employees use the Eighth Avenue entrance, make sure the building fits in well with the neighborhood’s tree-lined streets, and called on Methodist to keep neighbors posted about the day-by-day impacts of demolishing townhouses to make way for the structure.

The “yea” vote came after the board granted the hospital a second audience with the committee to present a tweaked plan following a November meeting when the same volunteer wonks smacked down the previous proposal.

The hospital spent the intervening month trying to woo the board by tweaking the design and sending letters to the city seeking to dispel opposition claims that the project is steam-rolling ahead on the basis of bogus documentation.

The committee’s thumbs-up was an about-face from November’s 11-to-1 decision to block the bid. A panel administrator said the vote was fair and well-informed.

“This is another example of a thoughtful, deliberate process by the community board,” said Community Board 6 district manager Craig Hammerman.

But some neighborhood activists who say the eight-story facility will clog the residential streets with traffic and smog observed that the decision was far from an unqualified approval.

“It was not a clear vote of endorsement at all,” said Bennett Kleinberg, president of the opposition group Preserve Park Slope.

The entire board will vote on the measure Wednesday night.

The board’s vote is only advisory and the city has final say over whether to grant the zoning variance. The hospital says if the city denies the proposal it will go ahead and build the taller, thinner version, which could rise between 15 and 20 stories and is allowed under current zoning rules.

“We have no other option,” Methodist spokeswoman Lyn Hill said.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.