A tale of two hospitals

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Damn it, I’m jealous.

I watch with revulsion and shame the death throes of my local hospital, where I volunteered for more than a decade and sat on the monthly community advisory board. Where my kids went for stitches and doctor’s appointments, and thousands of lives have been saved since it was founded in 1858. The current and former owners of Long Island College Hospital played me and my neighbors for fools again and again.

This gives me a wistful, but also hopeful, lens to view the bubbling irritation about the new medical facility New York Methodist Hospital plans to build in Park Slope on Eighth Avenue, which will stretch down the sides of Fifth and Sixth streets.

It is striking how few people showed up to speak about these two really momentous situations, the unveiling of a major new medical facility and the closing of a hospital.

The way I see it, the majority of Park Slopers either support the New York Methodist plan or are neutral about it, as evidenced by the 70 to 80 people present at the meeting. The dissenters, who seemed to live on the blocks where the construction will be taking place, appeared to be shocked — shocked — to find that they live near a hospital that is about to construct a major new facility.

It’s hard to take people seriously who appear to have a personal axe to grind. While the dust, noise, inconvenience and unpleasantness of construction arouses my sympathy, a handful of unhappy neighbors does not a movement make.

Few showed up to save Long Island College Hospital, either. The opposition to closing the state-run institution had a hard time gaining traction, and somehow it morphed into a labor fight (“Save our jobs!”), which just couldn’t stimulate a vital response from Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill.

Apathy is awful. It was brutal to watch nothing coalesce to fight Downstate and Gov. Cuomo’s plans to pull the plug. It speaks to a leadership vacuum, the lack of willingness to mount a full-scale attack against the State University of New York’s board members, or whatever tactics it would take to save it.

But my hopeful reaction came from this: New York Methodist previously put forth plans for this new building, asked its neighbors for input and suggestions, and revised plans to reflect at least some of the community’s ideas.

As a result, the exteriors of the building have been modified to fit into the brownstone and limestone context a little better. Green, garden-covered roofs have been added to the Fifth Street portion of the building, which will make the Fifth Street neighbors’ views much nicer.

Community input meetings, where suggestions are actually implemented? Now that is a novelty!

I recall all too well the community meetings set up for Barclay’s Center and Brooklyn Bridge Park, which were truly an insult to attend. Mere charades during which no input was suffered, and naturally, none represented in the final products. Given that trend, it is all the more surprising that New York Methodist officials chose to work with Park Slopers to find compromises, when they could simply have done whatever they wanted with their property.

And then there’s three levels of underground parking. The hospital clearly understands the realistic traffic complaints. As I see it, the traffic is the serious downside of this venture.

In our environmental mindset, surrounded by bike lanes on every street, it is tempting to think we can keep people from coming to a medical facility in cars. But the reality is, if you are having an outpatient procedure, or simply do not feel good, you are not going to walk or take public transportation. You will most likely need to be driven back home, no way around it. So the parking is a necessity.

The hospital did bow to community pressure and redesigned an internal tunnel, keeping all traffic on Sixth Street rather than flow onto Fifth Street, too. But there is a ton of traffic back-up now, and it will only increase as out-patient offices multiply all over the city.

This project has been described as “massive” by this newspaper, and those of us who cherish the charming streets and small buildings that characterize Park Slope will surely feel a difference. But consider the construction boom that has been taking place in Brooklyn Heights, with its similar aesthetic. Set-back additions atop old and elegant buildings, some utilizing glass to blend into the sky, are now commonplace. The former Board of Ed building at 110 Livingston St. is an example (albeit a tall one). The nice thing about this technique is, it doesn’t change the feel of the neighborhood as you walk through it.

Some are puzzled why these hospital-owned buildings planned for demolition were not landmarked, but it’s a non-issue. They are not going to be retroactively landmarked now! I love the historic nature of Brownstone Brooklyn, and am really glad so much has been preserved. But not everything needs to be. Especially when there is a big potential benefit to our health and well-being.

So Park Slopers have not only a working hospital, but one that is expanding and cutting-edge, too. One that actually listens to them and takes their concerns seriously.

That is definitely something to be jealous of.

Celia Weintrob, the publisher of The Brooklyn Paper, has lived in Brooklyn Heights for more than 25 years.

Posted 4:10 pm, October 4, 2013
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Reasonable discourse

Joey from Clinton Hills says:
I've only ever heard horror stories about the maternity ward at Methodist.

LICH had a fun ER...very diverse with Hasids, yuppies and folks from the Red Hook Houses.
Oct. 4, 2013, 10:11 am
UpSlope from Park Slope says:
Celia: as you concede, most visitors to Methodist's new outpatient center would be traveling in cars. That is in addition to the taxis, vans and access-a-ride ambulates that already crowd the streets. Compounding the problem is the fact that ambulance and emergency vehicle traffic is multiplying exponentially with each additional hospital closure. The reality is that the Hospital is hopelessly landlocked inside a web of narrow 19th-century streets, nowhere near major arteries, and bounded on all sides by homes and schools. It stands to reason that by nearly doubling it's operating space, the hospital expects to increase it's activity by about as much. It's impossible to say, since they are very tight-lipped on that matter. But by overwhelming the neighborhood infrastructure beyond the capacity it can handle, the Hospital is unecissarily putting at risk not only the hundreds of schoolchildren who will have to dodge speeding ambulances, but the critically ill patients from farther reaches of Brooklyn who can't get the care they need because their neighborhood hospital has closed and they're stuck waiting on a gridlocked Park Slope street.
Oct. 4, 2013, 11:40 am
ty from pps says:
UpSlope --
Your argument was strong until you throw in ridiculous hyperbole... "the hundreds of schoolchildren who will have to dodge speeding ambulances"

Umm... school children should know how to cross the street (or they shouldn't be allowed outside). If there is a large vehicle with a loud siren and flashy lights, best not to "dodge" it.
Oct. 4, 2013, 12:38 pm
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
ty, "potential harm to schoolchildren" is a time-honored NYC NIMBY argument, no matter the issue. I'd be shocked if it wasn't in there.
Oct. 4, 2013, 1:16 pm
hh from bklyn says:
Your assertions about the supposed lack of any real fight for lich confounds me. Have you been watching (and participating) in the same fight so many others have been for Lich? I wonder because you seem to be so misinformed about it. It has been massive and successful. Hundreds of neighbors came out to fight for Lich, especially from Red Hook, which is a community entirely dependent on that hospital. 2 Supreme Court judges have ruled that lich cannot be closed and the hospital was even taken away from its current operators - the state - for their breaching their responsibility. Lich was never a fight about a jobs - it's all been about the fact that from Red Hook to Williamsburg and across Downtown there would be no hospital to serve the continually booming population of this region of Brooklyn. And because the hospital was being systematically destroyed for a real estate deal. The huge fight for Lich put an end to that.
Oct. 4, 2013, 8:36 pm
Lonnie from Sunset Park says:
She probably is one of those who drives up the FDR to her doctor & from her fancy desk in Brooklyn Heights, she isn't noticing that there are other neighborhoods with people who care, need, & have been doing something about saving their only hospital. She just isn't looking down her nose far enough to see them.
Oct. 4, 2013, 8:45 pm
NewsFlash from Cobble HIll says:
LICH is NOT closed.
LICH is NOT closing.
LICH is seeing patients in the ER, accepting ambulances and admitting patients to the hospital.
LICH is in the process of being handed over to a new operator to maintain a full hospital & services.

I suggest the publisher of this paper read Judge Caroline Demarest's order to get the facts.
Oct. 4, 2013, 9:02 pm
Slope Resident from Slope says:
Maternity ward is fine at Methodist. I had my daughter there, and all my family have used the hospital at one time or another. We have all survived quite nicely. Plenty of my co-workers and students' families come from other, poorly-served Brooklyn neighborhoods (Brownsville, Red Hook etc.) to have their kids there, or for other services. It used to be that most people in Park Slope relied on their local hospital, but these days many residents reject it for Manhattan. A shame - we're lucky to have it here, & I hope the expansion goes through. A functioning hospital is way better than none at all. What's happening at LICH is terrible, as are all the hospital closures in Brooklyn - the result of greed, mismanagement & corruption. Yes, congestion is bad here (those newly reduced traffic lanes on Fourth Avenue won't help much) , but frankly, it's bad all over the city. When there are less and less beds available in the borough, I think the sick will take their chances on some crowded brownstone streets. Fight against closures, not expansions.
Oct. 4, 2013, 9:02 pm
Marie says:
Regarding the expansion of Methodist & impact on its surrounding community: With all due respect, I think it would be more informative to hear the perspective of someone who actually lives in the affected Park Slope neighborhood, rather than from a newspaper publisher who lives miles away, unaffected and no where near Methodist. I happen to agree with UpSlope and view this issue as a bit more than mere inconvenience.
Oct. 4, 2013, 9:19 pm
j says:
Excuse me but you are wrong about apathy in the fight for LICH and that "few" people showed up for it. How did you miss this huge fight, especially all throughout this past summer? It was the tremendous fight that the communities waged, led by the nurses with many others who cared about LICH that stopped its closure & sale to developers. Weren't you there? LICH is open for care.
Oct. 4, 2013, 9:30 pm
Jeez, I Worked Late Tonite from Bay Ridge says:
Marie says: "I think it would be more informative to hear the perspective of someone who actually lives in the affected Park Slope neighborhood,"

Didn't you already get that?

I've lived in almost every borough, lived on 5th in PS and almost on top of two busy Manhattan hospitals ... and, honestly: despite the busyness, I'd rather live near an ambitiously abled hospital than 40 blocks away (as I now do).

Yes, my relatives and I have "Manhattan MDs" and would opt for NYH-Presb/Sinai in a leisurely nonemergency. But trust me: In a real emergency, it's a *gift* to have an ambitiously-abled hospital nearby.

If you, your spouse-partner, child or parent are in PS and need immediate-essential or emergency care: potential local traffic is *nothing* compared to the risk and stress of being shipped elsewhere in the borough.
Oct. 5, 2013, 2:45 am
Tom from CG says:
If you, your spouse-partner, child or parent are in Red Hook, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown, Williamsburg or DUMBO and need immediate-essential or emergency care, you'd be glad that a lot of people from most of those neighborhoods came out to save your local hospital - its emergency room and its full hospital services to back it up - because nothing is worth the risk & stress of being shipped elsewhere in the borough.... or to another borough as was happening all summer. Of course we wish Methodist well & hope it works with its neighbors during construction, but we also deserve our hospital on this end so we won't have to suffer the risk & stress of being shipped elsewhere. Long live both hospitals.
Oct. 5, 2013, 9:35 pm
Jeez, I Worked Late Tonite from Bay Ridge says:
Yes, Tom, all deserve ready access to hospitals and health care ... unless we're not a civilized society. Kudos to those who won't back down re that basic.
Oct. 6, 2013, 3:45 pm
Bernie Kleinman from Park Slope says:
There is no need for such a major addition to Methodist Hospital. They claim that they now provide good outpatient care in the current building, but that it will improve efficiency. But who gains from this? Can they assure us, with figures, that patients and Medicare and Medicaid will be charged less than they are now? Very unlikely after they spend perhaps $100 million to construct these buildings. The hospital really has tens of millions on hand?
Also, they have said that the increase in demand for outpatient services will grow at only a few percent a year. If that is so then there is already adequate space on the site. The empty brownstones on 8th Avenue can be rehabilitated, The doctors' parking lot can then be restored into a useful facility, plus the 5 brownstones on 6th Street, and those on 5th Street. In other words, the brownstone mode can be maintained almost fully with lots of modern new space inside, all interconnected. And for a lot less money.
Lastly, the parking and traffic problems have not been well addressed. I can imagine what would happen if there were to be an accident on the new roadway inside the building. The traffic on 6th Street would be backed up onto 8th Avenue and major disruptions would occur all over the neighborhood. Emergency vehicles could not even get through to help.
Let them do an expansion, but make it small and in Park Slope style.
Oct. 6, 2013, 7:21 pm
Parker from SS says:
The hospital won't have to pay all those millions. The state will - or rather you, I & the rest of NY's taxpayers will - in the form of state grants. I'd not be surprised if Methodist was already promised that money by Don Cuomo il Figlio as bribe to prevent it from objecting to his scheme to close the next fully functioning hospital. (LICH). Wouldn't be surprised at all.
Oct. 6, 2013, 10:22 pm
Mhorine1 from Park Slope says:
Did NYM promise you some advertising $$ for this editorial?
Methodist is a bully of a neighbor and a poor medical provider. They have provided pretty pictures in slideshow presentations but no actual numbers as to how the neighborhood will be affected from an environmental or traffic standpoint.
Oct. 7, 2013, 8:48 am
bee from park slope says:
I live in Park Slope on a block not directly impacted by this expansion. I vehemently oppose this expansion.

To Bernie, I checked with the NY Cornell site and they are projecting costs for their 400,000 sq ft site in Manhattan at about $896 million dollars, which if you bring it down to their 300,000 sqft is a cost of $672 million which will mostly be pushed onto the back of the taxpayers as so correctly pointed out by Parker.

The people at Methodist have nothing concrete to show except slide shows. Ask them about funding, they tell you the trustees are confident,
ask them about traffic and the study is coming,
asky them about the impact the extra people and they can't tell you how many extra people they expect to service. It is insulting and as the many
people in the last meeting at Garfield Temple said the "fix" is in.l

Ms. Weinraub, you obviously were not there, every seat was taken, many people were standing along the side of the room, don't put your spin on it as say the community is apathectic.

Opposition is growing as more people become aware of this disaster that is coming to our neighborhood. Methodist is a poor neighbor, and has been in the 35plus years I have lived in the Slope.
Oct. 7, 2013, 11:15 am
bee from park slope says:
Another item that was questioned at the meeting
with no answer from the hospital representatives,
was what proportion of the current patients are residents of Park Slope as defined by its expanded boundaries of Flatbush, the Park, Gowanus and the Expressway. We are in a tight geographical box,
made worse by the closing 5th Avenue for Barclays.
We don't have the infrastructure for this massive site.

To the supporters of LICH, I tried to use their physian referral service on Friday to get a name of a specialist and they referred me to doctors at SUNY Downstate.

I searched through my insurance company's base, and there are no doctors listed at LICH , so I am assuming that the Downstate people scrubbed data to further sabotage the hospital.
Oct. 7, 2013, 11:26 am
Rodney King from Park Slope says:
Clearly, the Publisher of Brooklyn Paper has no understanding of this project at all. NYMH claims to be building an "ambulatory care center." It will not include one single additional bed for a sick person to stay overnight. So, anyone who wants to say that this expansion will help the hospital situation in Brooklyn is sadly mistaken. Moreover, for folks in danger of losing LICH or Interfaith, this project provides no relief because the clogged arteries of traffic leading to NYMH are already filled with too many cars. And, the only way we'll see that is long after this project is completed, when patients start dying in ambulances on their way to the ER. Call it NIMBY all you want, but the size and scope of this thing is merely a display of successful hospital trying to make more money, not a caring institution working to benefit the community that has given rise to its success.
Oct. 7, 2013, 2:35 pm
Feldon from 5th Ave says:
I guess you didn't come to the PS Civic Council meeting at Cong. Beth Elohim last week which was standing room only and filled with angry residents who have no interest in seeing this project move forward in its current form.

What was really hilarious was watching the NYMH PR person dance and dodge every question. I don't know how long she has been in that position but she is certainly doing NYMH a disservice if she is hoping to build bridges here.
Oct. 7, 2013, 2:38 pm
Dr. Smart from The People's Republic of Park Slope says:
RE: Jeez, I Worked Late Tonite --
I'm so happy you like the Meth ER. Unfortunately, this project will not be improving on that aspect of the hospital and will not make it easier for you to use that facility.

This is a nine-story behemoth. Think about that for one minute. It will be one of the largest construction projects in Park Slope since the creation of the historic district.

Did you move to Park Slope for the medical care or for the charm of low buildings and leafy streets??

In meeting after meeting the architects seem tone deaf and outright stupid. This facility would work well in Manhattan. But not here.

Make it smaller and design it in such a way that we want to welcome it to our neighborhood. Right now, it's like an alien is invading.
Oct. 7, 2013, 2:45 pm
hh from bklyn says:
Mhorine1 from Park Slope, my first thought was the same as yours: the Brooklyn Paper must have been paid off to put out misinformation & spin PR for Methodist. On second thought, I wonder if maybe the publisher is just clueless. Maybe she hasn't been at any of the standing-room only meetings for Methodist or not even in the borough during all these months of fight by the different communities for Lich. If that's the case & she's writing op-eds like she actually knows what's going on, she's being irresponsible in misleading/misinforming the public. She should read her Brooklyn daily competitor to catch up on facts. There is no apathy in Brooklyn.
Oct. 7, 2013, 3:37 pm
Falsies from Gowanus says:
Opinion is one thing. But get your facts straight. You state : "New York Methodist previously put forth plans for this new building, asked its neighbors for input and suggestions, and revised plans to reflect at least some of the community’s ideas."

Sorry, dear. NYMH never put plans forward until last week. Until that point, we were all left to speculate and wonder what they would do. They never shared any drawings, traffic plans or numbers with the community. Don't believe me? Try to find anything on their website or get anything out of that unresponsive PR department.

Also, you state "As a result, the exteriors of the building have been modified to fit into the brownstone and limestone context a little better. Green, garden-covered roofs have been added to the Fifth Street portion of the building, which will make the Fifth Street neighbors’ views much nicer."

Again, completely wrong. The green garden covered roofs will all be four and five stories above ground. Unless you are a doctor renting space from NYM, you will never see them.

And, as for neighbors on 5th Street, a green garden sure looks nice -- in the dark. Because when this thing is built and shrouds the surrounding buildings, schools and churches in shadows, the only thing growing will be cockroaches and mold.
Oct. 7, 2013, 4:16 pm
Bob from Park Slope says:
The New York Methodist plan is sound and the best solution to health care in this area. It is time to get people to accept change and what is needed for our area.
Oct. 8, 2013, 12:48 pm
ITT from Boerum Hill says:
LICH is closing its doors tomorrow. Our fight was in vain. Yes, there might be an urgent care center, but that's grossly inadequate. I'm so sad, so heartbroken, and angry too. I can't believe our politicians think it's okay to let a hospital close in favor of more condos with Manhattan views. DeBlasio, Cuomo, shame on you!
We won't soon forget.
May 21, 2014, 10:08 pm

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