The New York Times
By Anemona Hartocollis
A new public school will be created and a historic building in Greenwich Village will be preserved as part of a deal intended to placate opposition to a plan to build luxury housing on the site of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital.
In a package that seemingly includes something for almost everyone, the deal also promised to reduce the number of new apartments, though not the square footage, to set up a fund for affordable housing and to provide money for arts education in local schools.
About the only thing missing, as Christine C. Quinn, the city council speaker, said in announcing the deal Wednesday, was a hospital to replace St. Vincent’s, which was the last full-service Catholic hospital in New York City when it went bankrupt and closed in 2010. The plan calls for a freestanding emergency room to replace the hospital.
“We were able here really to take some positive steps for health care, giant steps for education and take further defensive actions around historic preservation in the Village,” Ms. Quinn said.
Neighborhood activists said that though they still hoped for a full-service hospital, the deal brokered by Ms. Quinn touched on virtually every other objection — from more traffic to school crowding — that the community had raised to the plan by the Rudin development family to turn eight former hospital buildings into luxury housing.
“Nothing will replace what we lost when St. Vincent’s closed,” Brad Hoylman, chairman of Community Board 2, said. “But the changes proposed today address serious needs” in the community, he said.
The deal comes at a delicate time for Ms. Quinn, as she is said to be gearing up to run for mayor in 2013, a race in which her chances will be enhanced if she can perform the high-wire act of garnering the support of her political base in Greenwich Village and Chelsea, and wealthy developers like the Rudins.
The changes in the plan were approved on Wednesday by the City Council’s land use committee.
It needs final approval from the City Planning Commission, the full City Council and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, but most officials involved said those were largely technical hurdles.
Ms. Quinn said the Bloomberg administration had agreed to buy a state office building at 75 Morton Street, a few blocks from the hospital, and convert it into a public school, probably a middle school. Though Ms. Quinn linked the school to the St. Vincent’s development, the Rudins would have no role in the construction of the school, which community groups have been seeking for years and which seemed to have been added to the deal as a sweetener.
To address concerns of traffic and school crowding, the Rudins agreed to cut the number of apartments to 350 from 450, and to reduce the number of underground parking spaces to 95 from 152. Above the garage, the developer had planned to construct a new building in the place of what is known as the Reiss building, which would have been torn down. The Reiss building will now be preserved, though Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said he was skeptical that the garage could be built in a way that would allow the facade to be preserved.
The Rudins agreed to turn a private space, known as the triangle space, over to the city parks department, and outfit it with an AIDS memorial, and to put $1 million into a legal fund to help preserve rent-stabilized housing in the Village.
And the developer agreed to provide $1 million in arts financing over 10 years to three Greenwich Village schools — Public School 41, Public School 3 and the Foundling School. “I think we listened to the community, as we’ve done throughout the whole process,” said Bill Rudin, the managing partner of Rudin West Village. He said he expected the $900 million project to be finished in 2015.