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Landmarks Commission Says No to St. Vincent's Plan

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The Landmarks Preservation Commission has turned down the big expansion plan by St. Vincent's Hospital with Rudin Management. The signs weren't good for the hospital after the marathon two days of meetings last month, but today, the commission made it formal, rejecting the proposal to demolish nine buildings in the Greenwich Village Historic District and put up 1.3 million square feet of condos and a new hospital. The LPC, according a gleeful press release from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, "issued a stunning rebuke" of the plan and "urged preservation" of a number of structures including the O'Toole Building and "urged a complete re-working of plans for development on the remaining sites to match the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhood." The LPC left open the possibility of a tower on top of the O'Toole building. St. Vincent's and Rudin have three options: file new plans, give up or file a "hardship case" to seek approval for demolition and new construction anyway. Rudin issued a statement afterward that said, in part: "we've heard a great deal of thoughtful comments from the community and the Landmarks Preservation Commission...we will evaluate the feedback we've gotten and hopefully identify a viable alternative that would address the concerns of the Commission and the community, and allow us to move forward in meeting the needs of this great hospital." They will, apparently, be going the "hardship" route. According to the Municipal Art Society, only one of seven "hardship" applications filed in the last 26 years has been denied.

An email, apparently from Community Board Two, expounds more on the hardship option:

Following the Landmarks Preservation Commission's discussions regarding the St. Vincent's Replacement Hospital project, St. Vincent's has announced that it intends to seek a hardship exemption to demolish its O'Toole building in order to move forward on its plan to provide a 21st-century, state-of-the art green hospital for the West Side of Manhattan. It also stands ready to amend its LPC application in the event the Rudin Family decides to modify its plans to develop the current hospital campus for residential use.

"While we are disappointed by the discussions of the Landmarks Preservation Commission as it pertains to the O'Toole site, we understand that the Commission's scope is to examine the appropriateness of demolition within the historic district. Nevertheless, St. Vincent's remains focused on building a 21st century medical center for the West Side of Manhattan, and will move forward with a hardship application, an avenue provided for in the Landmarks laws," said Henry Amoroso, President and CEO of Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers. "The reality is that the O'Toole site is the only location where we can build a fully efficient, state-of-the-art green hospital to serve the people of New York. We are committed to continuing our more than 150-year mission of providing quality healthcare to an enormous number of New Yorkers, and we will return as soon as possible to the Landmarks Commission with a hardship application for the demolition of the O'Toole building."

The Landmarks laws allow non-profit applicants, such as St. Vincent's, to apply for a hardship exemption in situations where the Commission is not prepared to issue a Certificate of Appropriateness for demolition, but finds that the structure is unusable for the non-profit's charitable purposes.More to come, no doubt.
· St. Vincent's Must Head Back to Drawing Board? [Curbed]