Opponents of the nursing home are primarily concerned about its proposed location being within a flood zone. On March 30, 2016, the City Planning Commission heard testimony on an application submitted by Conover King Realty, LLC, on behalf of Oxford Nursing Home, to build a new nursing home in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. The proposed nursing home would be eight stories tall with the capacity to hold 200 beds and would serve to re-locate the existing Oxford Nursing Home located in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood.
Barry Braunstein currently owns and administers the Oxford Nursing Home located in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood. He purchased the Red Hook property 13 years ago for the purpose of relocating his existing nursing home to the new location.
At the March 30th hearing, Barry Braunstein testified that in addition to serving the nursing home residents, the proposed development would house a 24-hour diagnostic and treatment center. Currently, the existing nursing home located in Fort Greene must send residents in need of additional treatment to off-site hospitals, and the addition of an in-house treatment facility would take this burden off of the City government and would decrease the cost to the Medicare system. Further, Mr. Braunstein pointed out that the Oxford Nursing Home serves the borough-wide community—90 percent of the Fort Greene nursing home’s residents are from Brooklyn and it is undesirable to transfer them to another borough.
The City Planning Commissioner’s questioned the level of emergency preparedness currently reflected in the proposed plans for the new nursing home.
Commissioner Michelle de la Uz questioned the applicant team on the diagnostic and treatment center and the “the kinds of emergency preparedness and evacuation procedures that are standard in the industry and in particular for this site.” However, the applicant team testified repeatedly that the proposed nursing home plans are still in the “design phase,” which has prevented Oxford Nursing Homes from entering into any binding agreements with providers for the diagnostic and treatment center and from creating a new emergency plan tailored to the new site.
Chair Carl Weisbrod noted Red Hook’s status as a major flood zone and commented on how it was “particularly victimized” by Hurricane Sandy. “The residents of Red Hook houses were essentially trapped in Red Hook houses,” said Chair Weisbrod. He questioned whether the proposed nursing home plans included tailored evacuation procedures that take into account the nursing home’s location in a flood zone, the high levels of vehicle traffic experienced in the area, and the particularly vulnerable population that would be evacuated from the building.
Samuel Feuer, assistant administrator for Oxford Nursing Home, testified that the nursing home’s emergency preparedness plan is updated annually, and the Fort Greene nursing home regularly conducts more than the legally mandated annual emergency drills.
The applicant team continuously reassured that there would be transfer and transportation agreements in place once the plan is finalized, which would account for emergency evacuation situations. Additionally, there would be an emergency electricity generator on site, in the event that the staff and residents of the nursing home are required to remain in the facility rather than evacuate the premises.
David Estrada, Chief of Staff for Red Hook’s City Council Representative Carlos Menchaca, testified to Council Member Menchaca’s stance in opposition to the proposed nursing home. Mr. Estrada noted the practical implications of moving the Oxford Nursing Home from Fort Greene, where it was able to receive victims displaced by Hurricane Sandy, to Red Hook, where the nursing home population would be particularly vulnerable to displacement itself. “Now we’re taking a place that once was a refuge in a time of flood and placing it in a flood zone,” said Mr. Estrada.
Several Red Hook residents spoke in opposition to the construction of the nursing home. One resident, who has been engaged in local Red Hook emergency evacuation planning, noted that Ikea was the only Red Hook building operating the day after Hurricane Sandy struck New York City. Her view is that the nursing home should reflect the construction used in building the Ikea building, which includes raising the building and putting the electrical systems on the roof rather than the basement. “If Ikea can do it, and [Oxford Nursing Home] is going to do it, then they have to prepare a plan like Ikea’s. Otherwise, they’re of no help to us, and we will have another group to worry about in this situation,” said the Red Hook resident.
On March 9, 2016, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams issued a recommendation conditionally in opposition to the construction of the nursing home. Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 recommended approval of the proposed nursing home project, even though the community board’s land use committee recommended disapproval only a week prior. The City Planning Commission is expected to vote on the application in May 2016.
By: Jessica Soultanian-Braunstein (Jessica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2015)