A team of Park Slope Poindexters has come up with its own plan for the expansion of New York Methodist Hospital that its leaders say will trade the hospital’s mountain for an easier-to-swallow molehill.
Members of Preserve Park Slope, a group of Slopers who think the hospital’s plan to expand will inundate the neighborhood with traffic, smog, and out-of-place architecture, have put together an alternate plan that lowers the building’s roof by 45 feet by shifting a portion of its bulk to an attached parking garage. An architect who lent his drafting skills to the cause said the benefits of the elaborate counter-proposal, which brings the top of the compound closer to the four-story roof-line of the townhouses on the block, will force hospital officials to consider the plan.
“The benefits of using the adjacent garage space are so numerous and so obvious that we are hopeful that the [city] will require [New York Methodist Hospital] to re-examine this potential,” said Urban Architectural Initiatives architect David Hirsch, who penned a letter with four other designers to the city singing the praises of the idea.
Among the supposed virtues of the activist version of the outpatient clinic, which would require a zoning variance, are that it would be closer to the height allowed under the current rules, would fit in better with the surrounding buildings, and would help medical staffers move around the complex more easily, activists say.
Methodist has so far refused to entertain the idea of building over the garage on Fifth Street near Seventh Avenue. The hospital says doing so would require seismic retrofitting — modification to make the structure more resistant to earthquakes — and the process would require closing the garage for about 17 months, as a hospital rep wrote in a March 4 letter to the city. Such a structure’s floors would also be too small to accommodate the various clinical institutes and would keep doctors from consulting each other — the same problem Methodist has with the taller, thinner version of the center that it can build without city approval, the letter said.
Not so, insist the persistent project foes, who have pulled out all the stops in railing against the plan, bringing in their own architects, lawyers, and traffic and environmental experts to refute the hospital’s claims about why the complex, dubbed the Center for Community Health, has to be built the way it wants. Moving patients and staff from floor to floor for consultation is not a standard or preferable hospital procedure, claimed Hirsch. The activists want the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, which has final say over the zoning variance the hospital is seeking, to demand more information.
“The Board and the community deserve to better understand why the garage site is being preserved while excessive variances are being sought for a larger development than the zoning allows,” the letter states.
The only possible reason that the hospital would overlook the plan is if it was secretly planning to build even more above the garage in the future, the activists claim.
“It is clear to us that either the architects have not properly considered the obviously better option to include the garage potential or they have been told by New York Methodist to reserve this space for future development,” Hirsch said. “They have instead tried to defeat this potential by using fallacious arguments.”
Methodist architects are studying the activist plan and will respond to it at the next Board of Standards and Appeals hearing on April 8, hospital spokeswoman Lyn Hill said.
The expansion would take the place of 16 townhouses, some of them more than a century old.