Revised Rudin condominium proposal and St. Vincent's newly-filed "hardship application"
PVHD believes that the revised Rudin proposal remains too tall, too dense and out of scale with the surrounding area. We also believe that the application does not meet the established criteria for a hardship exemption and that the O'Toole building must be preserved. To read the hardship application and view drawings reflecting the revised Rudin proposal, click here.
Objections to the Revised Rudin Proposal for the East Campus:
- The proposed new condominium structure that would replace Coleman and Link is too large, too bulky, and not in keeping with the fabric of the Greenwich Village Historic District. At 235 feet, it will rise higher than any surrounding structure, including the large neighboring apartment buildings whose excessive bulk led to the creation of the Historic District. The mistakes of the past should not be compounded by approving an even larger structure that also has nothing to do with the rhythm or character of the Historic District.
- The proposed new condominium development, together with the buildings proposed for adaptive reuse, would result in a residential density totally at odds with the character of the Historic District. The resulting bulk, which approaches an FAR of 10, would overwhelm the fabric of the District.
- The Reiss Building is a handsome brick structure that should not be demolished. It, like the others identified in the Designation Report, is remarkably compatible with the surrounding small midblock townhouses. It would certainly be inappropriate to demolish Reiss only to replace it with a so-called modernistic interpretation of approximately the same size. To permit demolition and new construction would also upset the character and compatibility of the surrounding buildings that would remain on either side of the Reiss Building site.
- Demolition of the Reiss Building, if permitted, would also make way for the addition of a FOURTH PARKING GARAGE on 12th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The new building and garage would generate a huge amount of new traffic in the middle of a residential block, which will damage the quality of the historic structures on a block already overburdened with the traffic generated by three other garages. Permitting a FOURTH parking garage, which is to be constructed far underground, will also require massive demolition and digging, which threatens the fragile older townhouses and other historic buildings on this block.
- The retail proposed for the side streets (11th and 12th Streets) is inappropriate to, and incompatible with, this part of the Historic District.
- Approval of the revised Rudin proposal would effectively commit the East Campus to residential development and exclude the prospect of reusing some or all of it for a modernized hospital. This would improperly segment the LPC review process. More importantly, it would sharply diminish the realistic prospects of reusing the East Campus for a modernized hospital.
Objections to the Revised St. Vincent's Proposal for the O'Toole Site
- As the Landmarks Commissioners have already stated, the O'Toole Building is a striking example of modernistic architecture within the Greenwich Village Historic District and is an important landmark in its own right. In addition, in its low-rise configuration, it is an integral part of the fabric of the Historic District, providing a transition from the taller structures to the north and an elevated plaza of light and air between 12th and 13th Streets. If the O'Toole Building were demolished, these critical features would be lost to the Historic District and future generations. The Commission must do everything within its power to preserve the O'Toole Building.
- Even if demolition were permitted, the proposed new hospital tower that would replace the O'Toole Building is too high, too broad, and totally not in keeping with the fabric of the Greenwich Village Historic District. At 300 feet it will far surpass the height of any surrounding structures and will be widely visible from the adjoining neighborhoods. It will also transform what is effectively a low-rise elevated plaza providing extensive light and air to a bulky high-rise building, significantly and adversely affecting the quality and character of the Historic District and the adjacent neighborhoods.
- If the LPC approved such a huge new structure within a Historic District, it would set a terrible precedent that would affect historic districts across the city. It would be an invitation to other charitable organizations to do the same.
- There is no basis for the claim that the O'Toole Building cannot be used for hospital purposes, as it has been for the past 25 years. It could unquestionably be renovated to provide modernized services. The claim being made by St. Vincent's is that O'Toole cannot be used for the hospital it wants — i.e., a new high-rise tower. But that is not the proper test. The O'Toole Building contributes significantly to the carrying out of St. Vincent's charitable purposes and can continue to do so.
- At the time St. Vincent's acquired the O'Toole Building, it was subject to the restrictions set forth in the Landmarks Preservation Law. It bought the building knowing this to be the caseâ€”and with full knowledge of the restrictions. St. Vincent's should continue to be bound by them. If the LPC were to hold otherwise, any charitable organization could acquire a landmark property and then claim hardship because the building was not suited to its charitable mission. That would make a mockery of the Landmarks Law.
- By selling off its East Campus, St. Vincent's is self-creating the hardship that it argues justifies the demolition of the O'Toole Building. This bootstrap claim, if upheld, would turn the Landmarks Preservation Law on its head.
- There are feasible alternatives to destroying O'Toole, including the possibility of renovating some or all of the East Campus buildings or by building the tower at a new site on the West Side. If St. Vincent's were to sell its East Campus to the Rudins and also sell O'Toole for adaptive reuse, it would generate hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to acquire another site (or expand its existing property on Sixth Avenue) and provide the equity for a new tower. Alternatively, St. Vincent's claim that it cannot renovate its existing East Campus buildings because it would have to close its major services down for several years ignores the potential for phasing the modernization and using temporary facilities, such as those offered at Cabrini Hospital, in the meantime. Moreover, St. Vincent's claim regarding its existing facilities is belied by its representation to its creditors in its bankruptcy proceeding that if it could not build at the O'Toole site, it could continue to meet its mission by upgrading its existing East Campus buildings.
- The Commission should not separate the Rudin proposal for the East Campus and St. Vincent's hardship application for the O'Toole site. These are simply two elements of the same overall plan, and the one cannot be considered independent of the other. For the LPC to separate the two not only makes no practical sense, it threatens that the LPC will prejudge of one aspect of the plan before it conducts any meaningful investigation of the other. This is an improper segmentation that could and very likely will prejudice the outcome of the process.
- The impropriety of separating the Rudin and St. Vincent's applications is further underscored by St. Vincent's statement in its hardship application that the Hospital cannot use the East Campus for a replacement hospital because the LPC has refused to give approval to the demolition of Spellman, Nurses, Smith or Raskob, "rendering this option closed for consideration." But the Commissioners also spoke against the demolition of O'Toole, yet this has not "rendered that option closed for consideration." There are, of course, reasons why St. Vincent's might not seek a hardship finding for the East Campus — it wants to sell the buildings to Rudin. But this is never mentioned due to the artificial separation of the applications.
- The Commission cannot limit its consideration to "physical" hardship at the O'Toole site. It must also consider the financial situation of St. Vincent's, since, as just noted, the plan to sell the East Campus for residential use is based on the assumption that the money is needed to build the new Hospital Tower. This was one of the main arguments advanced by St. Vincent's in the appropriateness proceeding, and while it may not have highlighted the interconnection in its hardship application, the facts are well known to, and cannot be ignored by, the LPC.