Village leader ready to negotiate St. Vincent’s

By Alec Appelbaum | January 23, 2008 04:46PM

Though opponents of St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center’s proposed expansion voiced loud sounds of disgust at a public meeting last night, the local community board chairman said he still hoped a compromise would let the hospital grow without overwhelming the Greenwich Village Historic District.

St. Vincent’s, a Village nonprofit since 1855, wants to demolish its two-story building on the west side of Seventh Avenue and sell its seven other buildings, including the main hospital across Seventh Avenue, to Rudin Management. Rudin would build a tower on the current two-story site and a 21-story Luxury Condo Tower Across Seventh Avenue.

“Everything is on the table,” said Brad Hoylman, the Community Board 2 chairman who will guide how the board presents St. Vincent’s plan to the city authorities that must approve it. “I’m optimistic that we can come to some agreement on tailoring the project to meet the community’s needs.” 

The hospital wants to demolish eight buildings between 11th and 13th streets, including the O’Toole Building, which occupies more than half the block on Seventh Avenue South between 12th and 13th streets.

As The Real Deal reported in this month’s issue, critics are upset about the luxury residential tower. They want the hospital to expand without the condo money Rudin would provide.
The new hospital building might reach 330 feet, a height pilloried by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and other watchdogs. Last night, volunteers met people at the hearing’s door, announcing: “St. Vincent’s is too big.” Some held placards that read “360 Feet is Ridiculous.”

A “community alternative plan” proposes to give the hospital all the square footage it claims to need in two smaller buildings. But the hospital’s architect, Ian Bader of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, said in a presentation of renderings that the high-rise would blend in to a row of towers to the north on Seventh Avenue and would not cast shadows over small buildings. Setbacks would allow light and air onto quiet side streets, he said.

Greenwich Village Society chief Andrew Berman, though, insists that any demolition would set a troubling precedent for a historic district.
“Our objection is to luxury condos that squeeze the hospital to become the tallest building in the history of Greenwich Village,” he said. “People attracted to Greenwich Village aren’t looking only for new buildings with floor-to-ceiling windows.”
Hoylman said 101 people spoke at the event, and “height and bulk” registered as the thorniest issues.
The community board announced that Ethel Sheffer, a Columbia University urban planning professor and the local American Planning Association chapter head, will lead her class this semester in a study of potential compromise plans.
Hoylman said issues like school overcrowding and affordable housing need more discussion. The community board will host a second meeting on February 25, he said, then consider a resolution about the plan in March.