Rudin urges City Council to approve St. Vincent’s zoning at final public hearing

Opponents of development say project’s medical center is too small

TRD New York /
Mar.March 06, 2012 04:00 PM

Opponents and supporters of the proposed luxury condominium development on the former site of St. Vincent’s Hospital by Rudin Management flooded a City Council room at 250 Broadway at 9:30 this morning. They were there to have their say in what was the final public hearing the City Council will hold before deciding the fate of the rezoning of the St. Vincent’s East Campus for the project.

The hearing was to assess Rudin’s request for city approval for zoning changes, primarily to allow for higher residential density, new ground-floor retail uses, and a 152-space underground parking garage at the project. As The Real Deal previously reported, the proposal includes 450 condominiums plus 11,200 square feet of retail, a 564-seat elementary school, a neighborhood medical facility and a 15,000-square-foot public space.

William Rudin, managing partner of the development company, was present along with several other members of the Rudin family. In his opening statements to the City Council members of the zoning and franchises subcommittee, he was stressed the urgency of the approvals, saying “we want to get this project moving,” and referred to the hearing as the culmination of hundreds of meetings with community boards, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and City Planning.

The “reactivation of this site that’s lay dormant for two years” will bring around 1,200 new construction jobs and over 400 permanent jobs, he emphasized, to mutters of approval from some union construction workers and advocates in the room.

Other attendees, such as Mary Margaret Amato, a longtime resident of the West Village showed support for the development, saying it was “the best – and only – realistic plan to bring new jobs, healthcare, green space and an elementary school to this part of West Side Manhattan.”

Amato said construction of the development would also be a boon to unions in tough economic times; it’s “a prescription for the relief that we need,” she said.

The main sticking points for opponents of the project, who addressed the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee in panels after Rudin’s opening statements, were the size of the medical facility, which some said was not sufficiently substantial to meet demand in the wake of the closure of St. Vincent’s hospital, an historic facility which helped victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, of the AIDS crisis and most recently following the Sept. 11 attacks; the hospital shuttered in 2010 due to bankruptcy.

A former attending physician from St. Vincent’s testified at the hearing, saying that if the application were to be approved, it would be a “precedent-setting canary in the coal mine” for the city.

“It’s not just about luxury condos and billions of dollars, it’s about the loss of this hospital,” he said, claiming that the emergency care center included in Rudin’s plans would not cater to the 61,000 patients that St. Vincent’s saw in the year before it closed.

“It’s an urgent care center on steroids,” he claimed, reiterating that it was unfair of the city to allow Rudin to enjoy zoning variances for a private development that were originally meant for a public hospital.

Representatives from Assembly member Deborah Glick’s office and the office of Rep. Jerrold Nadler were also in attendance to voice concerns about the development, including Rudin’s refusal to include some affordable housing in the plans. Rudin responded by saying that the project, which was sized down by landmarks decisions, would not be economically viable with an affordable component.

Though the Council subcommittee did not deliberate or issue a decision on the proposal today, a decision will be issued within days or weeks, a spokesperson for the council told The Real Deal.

“This application is of tremendous importance — in terms of the impact it would have on the Village, and the precedent set by giving special zoning privileges originally granted to a hospital to a private condominium development,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation in an email blast last week. It was not immediately clear if Berman had been in attendance at the hearing.

Council members asked questions pertaining to the number of parking spaces the development would have, the design of the park and the medical center’s capacity to treat different ailments at the hearing. Following the subcommittee vote, the council’s Land Use Committee will vote before the full City Council. The date of the final vote has not yet been determined.

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