Redevelopment of St. Vincent’s Hospital site debated

Proposal for the former St. Vincent’s Hospital Complex. Image: Courtesy of FXFowle Architects.

Opponents concerned about project’s impact, lack of new full-service hospital, and use of park space. On November 30, 2011, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on Rudin Management Company Inc.’s proposal to redevelop the former St. Vincent’s Hospital complex into a 450-unit mixed-used project. The project site includes two parcels in the West Village. The East Site parcel comprises the western half of the block bounded Sixth and Seventh Avenues and West 11th and 12th Streets and is occupied by St. Vincent’s eight-building campus. The Triangle Site, a triangle-shaped parcel across Seventh Avenue to the west of the complex is occupied by materials handling and gas storage facilities, and a raised landscaped area. The O’Toole Building to the north of the site was once part of Rudin’s development plans, but will now be used as a comprehensive health care center.

The existing buildings on the East Site consist of approximately 763,114 sq.ft. of floor area, and Rudin’s proposal would consist of approximately 635,290 sq.ft. of floor area. The project would include converting to residential use the Nurses’ Residence and the Smith and Raskob Buildings on West 12th Street and the Spellman Pavilion on West 11th Street. Rudin would construct a new sixteen-story building on the site of the Link and Coleman Pavilions facing Seventh Avenue, and a ten-story building would replace the Reiss Pavilion on West 12th Street at the East Site’s northeastern edge. Five four- and five-story townhouses would replace the Cronin Building at the southeastern edge of the site on West 11th Street. The project would provide 11,200 sq.ft. of ground floor retail space, and 25,094 sq.ft. of space for medical offices. A 152-space underground parking garage would be accessible from West 12th Street. 

In its initial proposal, Rudin planned to demolish the Triangle Site’s materials handling to build a 16,000 sq.ft. public park with a memorial relating to the history of St. Vincent’s. However, based on community input, Rudin revised the park design and agreed to demolish the gas storage facility as well.

Rudin submitted multiple applications, including a request to rezone the East Site’s Seventh Avenue frontage from C2-6 to a C6-2 district and the midblock portion from R6 and C1-6 to an R8 district. The project would also require special permits to allow the parking garage and to modify use, height, setback, and open space regulations. Rudin obtained approvals for the East Site proposal from the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2009. 6 Cityland 110 (Aug. 15, 2009). On December 6, 2011, Landmarks approved Rudin’s Triangle Site proposal by a 7-3 vote. Landmarks Commissioners Pablo Vengoechea, Margery Perlmutter, and Michael Goldblum opposed the plan.

At the Commission’s well-attended public hearing, Rudin Management’s CEO, William Rudin, testified that the project would reactivate the site, generate property tax income for the City, and create over 1,200 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs. Rudin also testified that it was not economically feasible to help finance the health care center and include an affordable housing component. A representative of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, who conditionally approved the proposal, testified that project would help local businesses, which had suffered since the closing of St. Vincent’s.

Community groups, preservationists, and elected officials opposed to the project expressed an array of concerns. David Reck, representing Manhattan Community Board 2, called for the inclusion of affordable housing. Local residents cited concerns about the project’s impact on traffic and neighborhood character and the lack of a fullservice hospital to replace St. Vincent’s. Representatives of Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick and State Senator Thomas K. Duane echoed the community’s concerns. Attorney Albert Butzel, representing Protect the Village Historic District, argued that Rudin was unfairly taking advantage of the zoning bonuses originally granted by the City to permit the development of a full-service community hospital.

A group including the cofounders of Queer History Alliance argued that the Triangle Site should be developed into an AIDS memorial park. Advocates of the memorial called for a below-ground learning center in a space set aside for tree plantings. Chair Amanda Burden explained that any changes to the park design would need to be included as part of the project’s full site plan prior to the Commission’s vote on the proposal.

The Commission has until January 24, 2012 to vote on the plan.

CPC: Hearing on Rudin West Village Project (Nov. 30, 2011).

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