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Hearings, and hearing the Hospital

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The thing about hearings is there are the regular people, and there are the suits.

The regular people discuss traffic studies done while walking the dog, read poems about their neighborhood, and compare the architecture of the historic buildings located nearby. They are compelling, and the suits are rather dull in comparison, speaking in city planning jargon, without directly addressing the residents’ complaints. (And they don’t have any fun poems to recite.)

From the three-minute comments aired at a Board of Standards and Appeals hearing on April 8, by a coalition of residents called Preserve Park Slope, you’d think Walmart is being built in Park Slope, or a suburban strip mall, or a jail. But it’s actually an expansion of their local hospital. The same one that was there at the time they moved in, and the one that they are thankful is right around the corner when their family needs medical care.

When speaking about the massive amount of air pollution that this expansion will unleash into Park Slope’s atmosphere, or the safety issues facing local students, you’d be hard-pressed to believe it was a healthcare institution that was being discussed.

It boils down to this: New York Methodist is expanding its facility, and has permission do so with a larger and less attractive development than they are now proposing. Preserve Park Slope has raised many challenges and presented its own architectural alternative, calling on the hospital to build over its existing garage.

Preserve Park Slope’s skepticism might be better grounded if it was anything other than a local hospital at stake.

The hospital’s architectural team, which specializes in space use by medical facilities, gave concise explanations about why the garage-build plan would not work for the hospital: doing so creates a huge floor plan that will be difficult for frail patients to traverse, while New York Methodist’s plan calls for the surgical suites to be arranged around a central core. It would also mean a lot of additional machinery would be situated on the roof.

Notably, New York Methodist’s plan calls for patient drop-offs, as well as a loading dock for deliveries, to take place inside its existing footprint, to mitigate traffic and improve safety on the street. This could not take place with the garage-build plan.

I view this story through a Long Island College Hospital lens, where the death throes of the Cobble Hill hospital have been heartbreaking to watch. Much of that institution is located on extremely narrow streets, and its modern buildings could never be accused of matching the character of the surrounding brownstones. But there is no question that the surrounding communities will suffer as a result of it going away.

The construction phase of this development will be difficult for anyone living near the hospital. It will be for New York Methodist, too. But that would be the case regardless of which plan moves forward. Preserve Park Slope’s members — and all Park Slopers — are fortunate to have a sound and thriving hospital in their midst.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Methodist Neighbor from Park Slope says:
The fact that Methodist Hospital is a health care institution does not mean that everything it does promotes health. As a long-time neighbor of this institution, it is clear that it does not take the health interests of the neighborhood seriously. Its ambulances idle for hours, polluting our air. Two years ago, the Brooklyn DA determined that it violated the law with its mishandling of medical waste. And in general this institution has ignored the calls of neighbors to meet with us about its proposed massive new building. This institution is more about profit than health.
April 10, 2014, 6:21 pm
Marvin Ciporen from Park Slope says:
What the author misses is that no one from Preserve Park Slope is against expanding the hospital. What is contested is the need for such an immense new building in a small area. NYM has never given any data to justify why it needs to build such an immense building and further drive up the cost of health care. And much of the new space will be filled with doctors offices that will enable them to charge much higher fees because they are part of a hospital. A third of the new program space will be used to move services about 50 feet from the hospital's existing Medical Arts building that will not be torn down. But they will destroy the historic brownstones on 8th avenue and rent stabilized buildings on 5th Street. The hospital now has an internal "drop-off" on 6th street for its main building. But no one uses it. NYM expanded its ER but did not spend the money to provide adequate space for ambulances, so patients are often take off on the street while other emergency vehicles are backed up. And yes we wanted NYM to save LICH. But they only care about their bottom line. Wait around for another 10 years and you will hear NYM explain why it must build another immense building over the garage.
April 10, 2014, 7:47 pm
Gary Shaffer from Park Slope says:
Marvin is correct that the issue isn't whether Methodist has the right to expand - it does. Nor do people oppose an expansion. The issue is whether it is entitled to a variance so it can expand beyond what the zoning laws permit. Methodist has failed to put forth any supportable facts as to why the existing zoning law precludes its ability to provide needed services to the future patient population it asserts will use the proposed new facility. That failure also raises the critical issue of the proper allocation and delivery of health care services not just for those in and near Park Slope but for all of Brooklyn. In that regard our local politicians in particular have done us all an extreme disservice by punting on a fundamentally important matter. The effect is to cede control over a vital public health issue to a single, local hospital and the City’s zoning board.
April 11, 2014, 1:07 pm
Roberta from Park Slope says:
I do not believe the author has been following this issue and has no understanding of the disagreement.

This is not about opposing a hospital at all. It's about over development and placing an excessive burden on the infrastructure of a fragile neighborhood.

I do not believe anyone is suggesting that the hospital not expand. However, the creation of a high-rise hospital in the core of a residential neighborhood does not seem appropriate. The reason Park Slope is such a treasure now is because concerned citizens have fought and struggled for the last 40 years to preserve the character of the neighborhood. From what I understand, the proposed project, which will tower over the neighborhood and be visible from Grand Army Plaza, dismisses all of the that.

Equally important, is that it does not seem to me that a larger hospital in Park Slope will do ANYTHING to benefit patients living in Crown Heights or Brooklyn Heights whose local healthcare is disappearing.
April 11, 2014, 2:33 pm
David from Park Slope says:
Clearly the writer's heartstrings were plucked by the many supposedly medically appropriate statements. Perhaps a closer examination would prove to you that nearly all were wrong, but I don't think you are after truth. Nor do you understand how this kind of over development can impact a neighborhood. To you, no matter how hospitals expand they are right.
April 11, 2014, 7:25 pm

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