City officials vote unanimously on transformation of Greenwich Village building
By Andrew Rice
The controversial plan to convert the St. Vincent’s campus in Greenwich Village from a vacant hospital building and lot to a luxury condominium with a school, medical center and public park space moved one step closer this week. On Monday, Jan. 23, 13 members of the City Planning Commission (CPC) unanimously approved the project, which requires rezoning the building on 7th Avenue between 11th and 12th streets that once housed the Catholic hospital.
“I wish that there was a replacement hospital for St. Vincent’s,” said Maria Del Toro, a member of the CPC, “but unfortunately that isn’t possible right now. My vote is yes.”
Rudin Management Company, a real estate developer, purchased the property this past October to the tune of $260 million after St. Vincent’s Hospital folded nearly $1 billion in debt. With Monday’s decision, Rudin was granted permission to rezone the St. Vincent’s building from a hospital to a residential development; the building is slated for 450 condo units and some commercial space. However, the City Council must still sign off on the proposal.
Before its closure, St. Vincent’s was the third oldest hospital in the city, having been founded in 1849. Some critics of the Rudin Management plan say the real estate company is benefiting from the bulk and density of the former hospital building, which was originally intended to serve the public and not become a residential complex. Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, has said this project could create a precedent where residential developers buy out defunct public buildings in order to capitalize on their size.
“The village and the surrounding neighborhoods have tons of these community facilities which were given special consideration with zoning, and now these properties are given to private developers who want, and are getting, the same thing. The ramifications are frightening,” said Berman.
Aside from the former hospital building, Rudin Management has also redesigned and is currently selling 44 units at a separate 14-story building nearby at 130 W. 12th St., where the two units currently available are selling for $5.7 and $6.3 million. The developer also plans to create a new school in the area for residents as well as an AIDS memorial public park on a triangular plot of land near the 7th Avenue building, a nod to St. Vincent’s history as one of the oldest HIV/AIDS clinics in the country.
To help make the change palatable to residents of the Village, who have been without a full-service hospital since April 2010, Rudin Management has pledged $10 million to create a comprehensive care center. The center will include a 24-hour emergency department and 24-hour ambulance services and will be run by the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.
Community members against the plan, however, point out that the center will contain only two inpatient beds—a far cry from the former health care facility’s 758 beds.
Protestors from Hands Off St. Vincent’s, a group lobbying for the creation of a new hospital in the Village, distributed flyers showing the huge inequality of hospital beds in Manhattan neighborhoods: 4,064 beds on the Upper East Side, 2,306 on the Upper West Side and 3,101 on the Lower East Side.
Opponents say the fight isn’t over yet, as Rudin Management still needs final approval from the City Council, which must vote on the proposal within 60 days of the CPC vote.
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