Panel approves Methodist expansion plan

Metho-discuss: Hospital unveils design tweaks ahead of Round 2 at community board
New digs: Methodist pulled in the glass tops on its proposed Center for Community Health in this rendering released on Jan. 2.
New York Methodist Hospital

A Park Slope panel overwhelmingly approved New York Methodist Hospital’s hot-button expansion plan on Wednesday night.

The 27-to-4 “yea” vote by Community Board 6 is the latest step forward for Methodist in its quest to build an eight-story, U-shaped outpatient center, but it came with a laundry list of stipulations. Board members said they chose to give the project the go-ahead because the hospital has the right to build a thinner version of the outpatient center — which could, according to the area’s zoning, rise to 13 stories in parts — without city permission and a medical tower in their backyard would be the worst-case scenario.

“That would be a loss for everybody,” said Daniel Kummer, chairman of Community Board 6. “We have to be careful what we wish for.”

The board’s thumbs-up for giving the hospital the zoning variance it needs to build a facility along Fifth Street, Eighth Avenue, and Sixth Street comes with all the stipulations demanded by the board’s land use committee at a Monday meeting. Those include:

• Locking in the hospital’s new design that moves back the upper, three-story glass facade along Fifth Street.

• Pulling back a similar shell on the upper floors near the corner of Fifth Street and Eighth Avenue.

• Reducing the height of the part of the structure lining Fifth Street.

• Cutting the number of parking spaces in its garage by 189.

• Only letting employees use the entrance on Eighth Avenue at Sixth Street.

• Setting up a group to keep neighbors informed about the day-to-day impacts of demolishing 16 townhouses to make way for the facility.

• Studying the hospital’s effect on traffic a year after the center opens.

Methodist has fought to win over the community board since it first announced plans for the Center for Community Health last summer. The proposal raised the hackles of neighborhood activists who say the proposed eight-story facility would clog their streets with traffic and smog. Hospital honchos have argued over and over that they need the expansion to better serve patients and that it would have no effect on traffic. Some opponents, including community board members, remain unconvinced.

“I cannot help but think that we are not doing simply what we are supposed to be doing,” said board member Glen Kelly. “I do not think Methodist has provided us with enough information that we are doing the right thing.”

The board’s opinion is only advisory and the city has final say-so over the zoning variance.

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

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