Zoning Subcommittee Approves Partial Rezoning of Fort Hamilton Parkway

(l. to r.) Mitchell Hirth, Fran Schwartz, and Dan Egers testify on behalf of the proposed Fort Hamilton Parkway rezoning. Image credit: NYC.gov

(l. to r.) Mitchell Hirth, Fran Schwartz, and Dan Egers testify on behalf of the proposed Fort Hamilton Parkway rezoning. Image credit: NYC.gov

Applicant seeks to build a six-story community facility for women’s health.  On February 24, 2015 the City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises approved an application by Fort Hamilton, LLC to rezone the north side of Fort Hamilton Parkway between 53rd Street and 55th Street in Borough Park, Brooklyn. The application rezones the area from its current R5 to an R6 district with a C1-3 overlay, and is intended to facilitate construction of a six-story women’s wellness center with partial ground floor retail. The application was approved by the City Planning Commission on January 7, 2015, following approvals from Brooklyn Community Board 12 and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

At the hearing Dan Egers of Greenberg Traurig and counsel for the applicant testified the proposed development site is occupied by a discontinued automotive service facility and a three-story house. The proposed wellness center would house a birthing center, medical offices, and suggested a pharmacy in the ground floor retail space to complement the medical presence in the rest of the building. Mr. Eggers testified accessory parking for one hundred and fifty cars will be handled by an automated stacking facility three levels below the center. Mr. Eggers repeated the application has received the approvals of Community Board 12, Borough President Adams, and the City Planning Commission. Fran Schwartz from Fort Hamilton LLC testified the center is an outpatient facility located within four blocks of Maimonides Medical Center, and there is a great need in the area for a facility to provide specific medical treatment for women. Ms. Schwartz singled out the need for the birthing center, stating the Brooklyn Birthing Center in Midwood is the only standalone facility of its kind in all of New York. Mitchell Hirth of Hirth Real Estate testified in favor of the women’s clinic, and assured the Council the applicant had the resources to build the building.

Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who represents the area, asked what role the community has played in shaping the proposal to this point. Ms. Schwartz testified the LLC has received input from the United Talmudical Academy across the street from the development site, and factored in their concerns over privacy issues of the women at the center. Ms. Schwartz also testified that neighbor concerns over area traffic from the yeshiva’s social events in the evening prompted their idea to open the center’s parking facility to the yeshiva. Council Member Menchaca thanked the applicant, saying this is why he supports the project. “I think you’ve shown a community engagement element of your business plan.”

Council Member David Greenfield asked about the difference between a women’s wellness center and a birthing center. Ms. Schwartz said the birthing center is a piece of the overall wellness center, stating “We’ve all learned over the years that women’s health services are not being satisfied because there isn’t one place for women to go.” She went on to state the wellness center would address multiple health issues specifically facing women from OB/GYN to oncology for breast cancer to cardiology, arguing that today heart disease kills more women than breast cancer. Ms. Schwartz testified she hoped the Brooklyn Birthing Center would expand into the proposed Fort Hamilton center, but if not, she would seek licensing to establish an independent birthing center in the new facility. The Council Member also asked why the center was so needed, as Maimonides Hospital was so near to the proposed site. Ms. Schwartz responded birth centers were needed as low-cost alternatives to hospitalized childbirth, and argued a recent study found 45 percent of pregnancies were low-risk and did not need the specialized care of a full hospital.

On February 24th, 2015 the Subcommittee voted 9-0 to approve the application and refer it to the full Land Use Committee.

City Council:  Public Hearing LU 0176-2015 (Feb. 24, 2015).

By: Michael Twomey (Michael is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2014.)

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