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Carter's View

The Landmarks Preservation Commission held a lengthy hearing today on "hardship" applications for a revised plan by St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Centers and the Rudin family to redevelop the hospital's properties on both sides of Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village.

The commission held a hearing on the initial proposal recently and indicated it had many problems with it such as the proposed demolition of the Edward and Theresa O'Toole Medical Services Building on the west side of the avenue and other buildings.

The revised plan, shown at the right in a view from the south, "significantly" reduces the bulk and scale of its expansion plans and preserves its Nurses, Raskob, Smith, and Spellman buildings that are east of Seventh Avenue in the Greenwich Village Historic District.

The original proposal called for a large residential building on the Seventh Avenue east blockfront between 11th and 12th Streets and many townhouse-size buildings on the side-streets.

The revised plan now intends to re-use several of the existing large buildings on both 11th and 12th Street and reduced the number of townhouses dramatically and the renovation includes the removal of through-wall air-conditioners in the buildings proposed to be preserved.

Spokespeople for the hospital told the commission in great detail that various alternatives to its proposal were not feasible. Shelly Friedman, an attorney for the hospital, explained that the commission's preference for preserving the four buildings east of the avenue precludes the development of a new mid-block hospital.

An architect for the hospital explained that building over the O'Toole building would involve very expensive foundation and truss work and would result in a tower of more than 400 feet in height compared to it present plan for a 299-foot-4-inch high new hospital building, which is 30 feet lower than the initial proposal.

Another spokesperson said that a property that the hospital owns on Sixth Avenue between 15th and 16th Street does not have a large enough footprint for the new hospital and other speakers emphasized that its present hospital buildings are highly inefficient and do not meet contemporary hospital standards in terms of ceiling heights and square footage for surgery rooms and the like.

Many speakers had high praise for the Rudin family's recent plan to provide a 563-student school for the neighborhood.

Lisa Kersavage, director of advocacy and policy for the Municipal Art Society, submitted a statement that said that its preservation committee felt that the design of the mid-block new townhouses should be revised as "the design, which seems suburban particularly in their stepped plan and corner windows, is oddly out of character" with the historic district.

In his statement, Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for the Historic Preservation, said that the revision of the residential proposals "certainly improves the application," but "strongly" urged the commission to not make any final decision about them "until it has heard and made a decision upon the O'Toole hardship case and new hospital application."

Regarding the proposed new building on Seventh Avenue and its wing on 11th Street, he said his organization was "glad to see a reduction in the height of the building as well as a change in the choice of brick," but still felt the building was "still quite tall" and felt that retail should not extend to the side-streets.

A spokesman for the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects said it supported the demolition of the nautically-styled O'Toole building as its site is the hospital's "best opportunity," but some other civic groups indicated the commission should explore ways to save it.

The commission will meet again on the application next month.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.