Hospital Closure and St. Vincent’s Development Plans
The announcement of the closure of most services as St. Vincent’s Hospital has been a shock to many. Over the last several years St. Vincent’s had pursued plans for an enormous and very expensive new hospital building, only a fraction of which would have been paid for with a speculative real estate deal with the Rudin Company for condo development on the site of the old hospital. It has now become clear that the hospital was actually sinking deeper and deeper into debt during this time, and quietly getting closer and closer to their own demise. At the same time, it has been reported that after emerging from their last bankruptcy in 2007, the hospital was advised to find a partner institution to help make it more financially viable — advice which was unfortunately ignored for the development plan. It now seems the new hospital plan was likely never financially viable, and instead of a new hospital on the site, the Village may have no hospital at all.
While the possibility of some medical services remaining or re-emerging on site is examined, the question has arisen: what could happen to St. Vincent’s property, and what about the prior development plans? Could someone else simply take them over? Could the condo development move ahead without the hospital?
There are a few clear answers. The plan to demolish the O’Toole Building to make way for a large new hospital, which was granted as a hardship exemption, cannot be transferred to another entity. Therefore if someone else takes over the site, they would not have permission to demolish the O’Toole Building, and would not have permission to build the planned 280 ft. tall building. As for the plan to retrofit four of the buildings of the current hospital on the ‘East Campus’ (east of 7th Avenue) for residential use and to demolish four others to be replaced by new condo development, those plans were approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and could in theory be acted upon regardless of what happens to the hospital, and could even be transferred to another developer, so long as St. Vincent’s consented. However, the condo development plans also require very large scale and very complicated zoning changes, which would entail months of public hearings and votes of approval by the City Council, City Planning Commission, and Borough President (St. Vincent’s began the process of seeking these approvals last year, but halted them before any were granted when their financial situation became dire). Thus no changes in use or new development should take place on the East Campus either without, at the very least, a full land use review procedure, which would take many months, many votes of approval, and would provide many opportunities for the public to weigh in and have a say in the process.
GVSHP will continue to closely monitor the situation; for more information, CLICK HERE.