On Friday, the gates opened at a long-awaited, $10 million park in Greenwich Village. The 16,000-square-foot, triangular-shaped space was designed by Rick Parisi of M. Paul Friedberg & Partners and features hexagonal pavers, benches, colorful water jets, an array of tree and flower species, and an amorphous lawn at its center. As AN reported in March, the creation of the park comes out of a deal the city made with Rudin Management Company and Global Holdings that allowed them to turn the site of the defunct St. Vincent’s Hospital into an FXFOWLE-designed condo complex. The developers fully funded the park which will be overseen by the New York City Parks Department. An 18-foot-tall AIDS Memorial, designed by Studio a+I, will soon occupy the western corner of the park. Christopher Tepper, co-founder of the New York City AIDS Memorial, told the New York Times that the memorial is being built in Buenos Aires, and is about 50 percent complete. The park does not yet have an official name.
Posts tagged with "St. Vincent's":
Mayor Bloomberg was in Singapore last Wednesday to accept the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize for sustainable planning, but it was the mayor's comments on social media got the most play in The New York Times and the New York Post. “I think this whole world has become a culture of 'me now,' rather than for my kids later on," he was quoted as saying. "Social media is going to make it even more difficult to make long-term investments. We are basically having a referendum on every single thing that we do every day, and it’s very hard for people to stand up and say, ‘No, no. This is what we’re going to do’ when there’s constant criticism and an election process.” Indeed. Two of the projects that Lee Kuan judges called out were conceived in a pre-social-media atmosphere: the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park. The third example, "re-purposing the right of way" (i.e. bike lanes and pedestrian plazas), evolved under the glare of social media. But as the mayor said in the speech, the High Line was just one court decision from being torn down when his administration took over in 2002. One can't help but wonder how much easier activist mobilization might have been if social media were around. Instead, activists relied on community outreach and coverage in print media to save the endangered rail bed. Though Brooklyn Bridge Park began with traditional community mobilization, by the time park officials got around to proposing a hotel and residential towers within the park's boundaries, opponents had found plenty of friends on Facebook. But among the three initiatives/projects cited in Singapore, none played out in social media more than the bike lanes. Interestingly enough, it's here that the mayor got the most support. If you can find the wordy "No Bike Lane on Prospect Park West Neighbors For Better Bike Lanes" Facebook page, compare its closed group of 288 members to the 3,397 'likes' on Transportation Alternatives public page. Transportation Alternatives has another 4,081 following them on Twitter under the handle @TransAlt. Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes isn't on Twitter. It’s not difficult to understand the mayor’s concern. In the last month alone, social media has had a profound effect at the city’s pubic hearings and meetings. The young bucks from the AIDS Memorial Competition nearly upended the land use process for the Rudin’s plan for St. Vincent’s when they tapped into Architizer’s 450,000 Facebook fans to hold the competition mid-ULURP. Normally quiet sub-committee meetings of Community Board 2 had to scramble to find more room for the NYU 2030 Expansion Plan after Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) digitally got the word out. And the very staid—and sometimes dull—Design Commission meeting turned into a sideshow when Save Coney Island informed their 5,300 Facebook friends of the time and place of the meeting. Regardless of how the mayor (with his own 240,000 followers on Twitter) feels about social media, it's here to stay. Even though the city closed down Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street continues to make its presence felt online, where they plan flash demonstrations held all over town. The question is: how does the city integrate this vital new participation into the process? There are platforms on NYC.gov that allow citizens to see what's going on, but few to interact. Researchers at NYU's Polytechnic Institute have been developing Betaville, an online, open-source platform where residents can do a 3-D fly-through of proposed projects and make comments. At the GVSHP kickoff meeting to oppose the NYU2030 expansion plan, one gray-haired woman said to another gray-haired woman that there was just too much gray hair in the room. As the various CB2 subcommittee meetings progressed through the month of February, more and more students who opposed the plan began to show up, as did their NYU professors. How did they get the younger turnout? Word of mouth, flyers, and, of course, social media.
With the prodding of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Rudin Management Company agreed to hand over the the last smidgen of property at Triangle Park for use in an AIDS memorial. The park sits across the street from St. Vincent's Hospital where so many AIDS patients were cared for and died. After months, indeed years, of wrangling, the gateway park to the West Village will move forward largely as originally planned, with M. Paul Friedberg incorporating components of the memorial by AIDS Memorial Competition winner studio a+i into the park design. The 1,600 square foot memorial will sit at the park's westernmost edge, replacing a triangular building that stored oxygen tanks for the now defunct hospital. Gone are the large scale plans for the memorial which would have taken over the entire park and enclosed the site with a mirrored interior / slate exterior. Gone also are plans for an underground museum. By challenging competition entrants to utilize the entire Triangle site, Christopher Tepper and Paul Kelterborn from the AIDS Memorial Coalition (formerly the Queer History Alliance) made a huge media splash and ruffled more than a few Village feathers. After watching St. Vincent's fail and luxury housing move in, many in the community were looking forward to the one aspect of the Rudin plan they liked--open space. Some thought the Coalition's overly aggressive approach was usurping the ULURP process. The activists' stance recalled old-school ACT-UP tactics. For the competition, they pulled together a big name jury (Whoopi and Arad) and big arch media (Arhchitizer and Architectural Record). With the agreement in place, a more conciliatory Coalition will team up with M. Paul Friedberg and work with the community at several charrettes hosted by Community Board 1 beginning this summer. While the Coalition may not have achieved all that they'd hoped for--it did accomplish much more than a memorial plaque. "I think we had to make our presence felt really strongly," said Tepper. "There's this history there and there’s barely a statue. We had to be forceful and get people to think about it."
City Planning approved the Rudin development family's plan for the old St. Vincent's Hospital Site today allowing the Rudin Managment company to build an $800 million multi-use complex. The plan includes 450 luxury condos, a 564-seat school, 15,000 square-foot-public park, and street-level retail. The St. Vincent's plan went through a bevy of iterations before finally arriving at today's approval. Since the Rudins first attempted to purchase the troubled hospital in 2007, the drawn out saga saw the collapse of the St. Vincent's, the threat and eventual preservation of the O' Toole Building (formerly the Maritime Union), the scrapping of a Pei Cobb Freed-designed tower west of Seventh Ave, the adoption of an FX Fowle plan for east side of Seventh, and, finally, the most recent development, a demand for an AIDS memorial at Triangle Park. Today's vote was on the FXFowle plan for the former hospital site and the M. Paul Friedberg designs for Triangle Park. Before voting yes Commissioner Burden said the the approved plan successfully integrates the old site back into the fabric of the neighborhood. She added that she was "confident" the developer would find a way to integrate the an AIDS memorial into the plan for Triangle Park. The AIDS memorial component cropped up over the fall when the Queer History Alliance joined forces with Architizer and Architectural Record to sponsor a competition that would scrap the M. Paul Friedberg design in favor of a site specific memorial. "We are very happy to have gotten the support from the commission and for them to specifically call out the AIDS memorial," said Queer History's Christopher Tepper. After the hearing, one member of the community, who asked not to be identified, said that the AIDS memorial distracted from other community concerns, such as the addition of a garage and retail along 12th Street. Nevertheless, the memorial garnered most of the recent attention, especially after assembling a star studded jury that included Whoopi Goldberg alongside architect Michael Arad. After the vote, Rudin chief exec William Rudin said that original landscaping for Triangle Park incorporated "place holders" for a "commemorative element" and that the company would continue to work with the community on design. The contest parameters broaden the site to include its full 16,000-square-foot footprint as well as a below ground space. The M. Paul Freidberg design is primarily at grade, using the below grade space for roots. Rudin would not comment on the future use of the below grade space. Tepper noted that using the space was included the impact study, so a new ULURP would not be required. However, he did say that his group "softened" their approach to including the space. "We asked competition entrants to consider using the space, but we don't require it," he said. Tepper said that more than 450 entries were received and a winner could be announced as soon as Monday.
After a protracted land use review with vitriolic community meetings that disquieted even battle-hardened presenters, the Landmarks Preservation Commission finally approved plans by the Rudin development family and North Shore Long Island Jewish Medical to renovate the St. Vincent’s O’Toole building in Manhattan's West Village. As of Tuesday, the former Maritime Union headquarters is set to become a comprehensive health care facility with emergency services. "Today's vote is further recognition that the North Shore-LIJ Comprehensive Care Center is not only the best plan to bring health care back to the West Side, but the right one for the neighborhood,” Rudin Management CEO Bill Rudin said in a statement. Renovations by Perkins Eastman will preserve much of the original design by architect Albert C. Ledner. "The interesting point is that we are adaptively reusing a 1960's building and turning it into a 21st century medical facility," said Frank Gunther, principal at Perkins Eastman. "We're fitting a square into a circle." The final proposal also addressed concerns by commissioners and several preservationists that the cantilevered overhang not be undermined. Original designs included a ground floor glass wall that practically merged with the overhang on the building’s west side. The approved design pulls the glass wall back away from the second floor while gently curving toward the north entrance, which will be used for the medical offices. The south side of the building will be carved out to provide privacy for the ambulance entrance, while the east side of the building facing Seventh Avenue will remain largely unchanged with new glass block replacing the old, aiding the illusion of a substantial rectangular mass floating above a glass base. Atop the building, a large modernist turret and old executive office space will be restored and converted into medical offices. Perhaps the most substantial change will be the removal of the tiny-tile cladding, which was added by the client shortly after the building was completed in 1963. The new façade will sport a fresh coat of white paint the color of vanilla ice cream, as Ledner had always intended. “It was an ill fated application,” Gunther, said of the tiles. “We plan to restore it to the original concrete finish, similar to what they did at the Guggenheim a few years ago.” Gunther said the firm received Ledner’s blessing on the restoration after extensive consultations with the architect. The team even made a pilgrimage to visit the 87-year-old Ledner who accompanied them to his archives at Tulane University.
Another entry in the good bad news department today, as the Post breaks the big story that St. Vincent's hospital in Greenwich Village is on the verge of bankruptcy again. According to the tab, crosstown rival Continuum Health, which runs Beth Israel, St. Luke's and Roosevelt hospitals is prepared to take over the city's last remaining Catholic hospital, and it could close many of the hospitals services, such as surgical and in-patient care, and possibly even the emergency room, one of the few on the west side of Manhattan. So how is this good news, that this critical hospital might close? Well, that pride of place, combined with the first bankruptcy, was part of the reason St. Vincent's used to justify its major expansion and real estate deal with the Rudins, which would have created a new hospital by Pei Cobb Freed and a huge condo project by FXFowle. Now all that could be in doubt:
The proposal throws into doubt St. Vincent's existing plan to build a new medical facility and sell its campus to the Rudin Co. for $300 million to erect a condo complex. The hospital had only just gotten the go-ahead from the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission last summer to proceed with its $1.6 billion modernization project after years of protests.While there is still time for a resolution to be worked out—we got about a dozen different press releases about the news from shocked and concerned politicians today—it looks like the hospital's expansion plan is at least on hold, possibly indefinitely. This could mean that the dogged efforts by preservationists to preserve the O'Toole building, formerly Albert C. Ledner's one-of-a-kind National Maritime Museum Headquarters, could be back on life support and possibly on the way to a full recovery. Not to mention a victory for the Village NIMBYists who felt threatened by two new towers in their low-rise, historic neighborhood.
Back in March, Protect the Village Historic District sued the Landmarks Preservation Commission over its granting of a hardship to St. Vincent's Hospital, so that it might demolish Albert C. Ledner's National Maritime Union Headquarters, now known as the O'Toole building, and replace it with a new hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb and Freed. The focus of PVHD's suit is that the hospital did not explore suitable alternatives, nor did the commission require them, but now, the state Supreme Court appears to be questioning the very nature of the hardship finding—that retaining the O'Toole buildings prevented the hospital from carrying out its charitable mission—or at least that is the finding of a brief filed today by the Municipal Art Society and half-a-dozen preservation groups that directly challenges the LPC on the matter. Filed on behalf of neither the petitioners nor the defendants but at the behest of the court, which is trying to better understand the mechanics of the hardship finding, the MAS' attorneys argue that the LPC erred in finding that a hardship was created by the O'Toole building when in fact it was the neighboring buildings that created the problems for the hospital. The LPC then falsely created a campus that included both the historic buildings east of Seventh Avenue and the Ledner building west of it, and with this campus, extended the hardship from the buildings responsible for it to the one that was not. MAS and company—Historic Districts Council, Greenwich Village Society, the National Trust, the Preservation League, Brooklyn Heights Association, and Friends of the UESHD—argue that in part because the Ledner building remains quite usable, and is not directly infringing on the functioning of the neighboring hospital, it can not be held accountable. And this does not even get into the issues of whether sufficient off-site alternatives were explored and the fact that St. Vincent's knowingly bought a landmark it could not alter, which are at the heart of the original suit. MAS does note that the standards for determining hardship are complex, and it should also be pointed out that, while ostensibly neutral, all seven amici have lobbied on behalf of preserving the Ledner buildings and indeed hold quite a vested interest in the LPC's defeat. Simply consider the conclusion of the brief [PDF], which states, in part, that the commission "has created a dangerous precedent that may have a devastating effect on the preservation of landmark buildings and historic districts throughout New York City." This is personal. We're still waiting to hear back from some real estate attorneys as to the exact role this brief might play in the case, whether or not it will actually sway the judges, but as soon as we know, you'll know.
We've been following the proposed hospital cum condos plan for St. Vincent's rather closely as its percolated through the LPC the past year-and-a-half, but due to conflicting plans and just a smidge of St. Vincent's fatigue, we couldn't make it to yesterday's latest hearing on the Rudin condo proposal. As we understand it, though, it was no different than the proposal unveiled 51 weeks prior. What was on view, however, were some fancy new renderings of those same old buildings, which you can find here. According to the Times, the proceedings were raucous as usual, with some 80 opponents speaking out against the project, a 233-foot condo tower designed by FXFowle along with a handful of condo conversions made out of historic hospital building. These apartments, developed by Rudin Management, are meant to help finance the recently approved 286-foot hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb Freed that will rise across Seventh Avenue on the site of Albert Ledner's former National Maritime Union Headquarters. "Essentially, they felt the building had to come down," LPC spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon told us today in a phone interview. Did they happen to say how big is too big? "They didn't specify," de Bourbon replied. "They just said it was too bulky and too tall." Dan Kaplan, the FXFowle partner in charge of the project, assured us the firm would be back. "I was encouraged by the Commisisoners' constructive comments on the scheme presented," he wrote in an email. As for these renderings, it's always impossible to tell what a building will really look like once it's built, but these don't seem so bad, do they? Then again, the design team has often been criticized by the commission for manipulating their media to only produce the desired affect. But hey, who can blame 'em?
The Observer points us to a lawsuit filed today in State Supreme Court aimed at stopping the demolition of Albert C. Ledner's National Maritime Union HQ in Greenwhich Village, now known as the O'Toole Building. If you read the paper with any regularity, you should know full well the story of St. Vincent's Hospital's attempts to replace the one-of-a-kind "overbite building" with a 300-foot tall Pei Cobb Freed-designed hospital tower. Well, the lawsuit may be just in time, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission is due to vote today on whether or not it approves the outsized plans for the new hospital building. As we most recently reported, a majority of commissioners are leaning towards approval, meaning the suit may be the last chance to save Ledner's building. The petition, which can be found here, was filed by the Protect the Village Historic District and a coalition of preservation groups and neighbors. It effectively calls into question the commission's torturous 6-4 October vote, which condemned the building in question, on the grounds that the hospital, and its development partner Rudin, were not wholly forthcoming. The petitioners claim the developers mis-attributed their "constitutional hardship"--St. Vincent's argues that it cannot carry out its charitable duties in its current facilities and that it cannot find a suitable replacement site beyond the O'Toole building--and that this hardship was falsely accepted by the commission. Perhaps more importantly, they challenge the fact that the property was knowingly purchased as a landmark by St. Vincent's:
In addition, petitioners contend that because St. Vincent’s acquired O’Toole Building AFTER the restrictions imposed by the Landmarks Law were already in place, the Hospital could not have had “reasonable investment-backed expectations” of the sort that would justify a constitutional exception to the otherwise proper and lawful restrictions on an owner’s use of its property that are codified in the Landmarks Law.This has been a major issue for preservationist throughout the two-year fight because they fear it sets a dangerous precedent wherein any charity could purchase a landmark, claim it does not suit its needs, and then demolish it. The hope is that with the subpeona power of the courts, the petitioners can bring to light many of the concerns that were never fully aired in public at the commission, such as the financial position of the hospital and any closed-door discussions and analysis performed by the developers with regards to alternative site. Still, one prominent land-use attorney who often goes before the commission doubted the suit's success. The attorney, declined to comment because, on the one hand, a number of associates lived in the neighborhood and were upset by the proposal, while on the other, the firm had and might yet deal with similar claims. Generally speaking, however, the attorney said the commission is always very cautious on such matters. "The hardship is rigorous, it's difficult" the attorney said. "It's difficult to meet the standard, and the commission is sure to dot all its 'i's. Usually, it's difficult to overturn these administrative decisions." Indeed, at the October vote, every single commissioner read from prepared remarks, something almost never seen, especially from the entire commission. An LPC representative even explained that prepared statements were used to be sure everything was on record and legitimate. The rep then added, "You know, in case there's a law suit." Well, the commission's gotten it's wish, so to speak. (The city has declined to comment until it receives the petition, which a spokesperson said it had not.) Whether this turns into another Atlantic Yards, or even another Grand Central, which is what got us here in the first place, remains to be seen. Then again, if they vote down the hospital tomorrow, maybe it won't even matter. But if not, we can only hope Joe Pesci is on the petitioner's side, 'cause he sure puts up a good fight.