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Same old story: Eight-story Hook old-folks home raises height concerns

Same old story: Eight-story Hook old-folks home raises height concerns
Going up: A new nursing home proposed for Conover Street in Red Hook will look close to this rendering — except builders are elevating the first floor per flood-zone building code. Some locals say the structure will be too tall to fit into the surrounding neighborhood.
Oxford Nursing Home

An eight-story, 200-bed old-folks home planned for Red Hook will bring traffic troubles to the neighborhood’s semi-industrial main drag Van Brunt Street and dwarf nearby homes in an area where buildings are no taller than four stories, says a local official.

“How would traffic work on Van Brunt once you put in a building with 200 employees and 200 beds?” said Community Board 6 district manager Craig Hammerman. “And the height is something that would be out of context with the neighborhood.”

Fort Greene’s Oxford Nursing Home is seeking the city’s blessing to erect the outsize building on Conover Street, between King and Sullivan streets, so it can and relocate its current facility to new digs. The home says it isn’t budging on the height, because the coastal neighborhood’s high water table means it can’t build underground and it needs room for all its residents. But it is adding dozens of new parking spots and is willing to work with locals to reduce the negative impact of additional cars, a representative said.

“There’s really very little option — we can’t build down into the cellar,” Oxford Nursing Home administrator Norman Motechin said. “Even for 200 residents that’s pretty much the minimum. We are bringing at least 50 parking spots — whatever else we can do we’ll try to do.”

The home is also downsizing from 235 beds at its current location on S. Oxford Street to 200 in Red Hook, he said. Administrators plan to lower the facility’s head count by cutting off admissions for a period before the move and letting nature take its course.

Hammerman said he thinks the nursing home is sincere in its desire to compromise with its future neighbors. The group presented plans to the Community Board 6 land use committee on June 25 — well before it was required to under the city’s land use review process, and he credited the early bird special as a show of good faith on the developer’s part.

“We give the applicant a lot of credit for coming to us early before the application is certified for review,” said Community Board 6 district manager Craig Hammerman. “Here they came to us before certification so that the community could suggest changes.”

Ultimately, the facility doesn’t need the community board’s okay to get the land rezoned, but the board can submit recommendations to the city, which the City Planning Commission may take into consideration in its final decision.

The new nursing home would sit in a flood zone but meet the latest flood codes, including required ground-floor elevation and rooftop mechanical equipment, Motechin said.

Hammerman said he hopes the new flood-resistant facility — like the Hurricane Sandy-scoffing Ikea — could serve as a resource in future emergencies.

Bingo, Motechin said.

“At our current facility, we accepted numerous residents that were affected by Sandy,” he said. “We can do that in the future.”

But, he noted, the Department of Health ultimately determines when nursing homes need to be evacuated, he said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.

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