Flexing her power and showing her considerable negotiating skills, last week, Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a wide-ranging series of concessions by Rudin Management on its condo project at the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site. Also part of the announcement – and a huge victory for the community – Quinn reported that the city would be buying 75 Morton St. from the state for use as a school.
Acquiring 75 Morton St. was one of the community’s top priorities over the past five years. Rudin won’t have any connection to the purchase of this seven-story building – which will cost about $40 million. This way, there will never be any question that it will be a school and only a school. There will be no rooftop condo additions. The greatest needs right now, which this building will potentially fill, are for middle school and early-education space.
Quinn told us this week that her goal was to try to fulfill as many of the community’s long list of “wants and asks” as she could – 75 Morton St. being one of the biggest. Basically, she said, the city could buy the building, so it made sense for the city do so, which, in turn freed up Rudin to contribute financially to the community in other ways.
The agreement shows why Rudin has the reputation it does in New York as a community-minded developer.
Rudin’s concessions include a reduction of apartments in its project from 450 to 350. This will mean less people, so less impact on the neighborhood. Since the complex will now have fewer residents, the developer will only create 95 underground parking spaces, down from 152. Again, less impact.
Also, the former hospital’s Reiss building, previously slated for demolition, will be preserved and reused. This will mean less disruption on 12th St., less shredding of the neighborhood’s historic fabric. In the end, six out of nine of the hospital’s buildings will remain. In fact, preserving and reusing Reiss is more expensive than demolishing it and building anew – costing Rudin an extra $15 million, according to the developer.
Furthermore, Rudin has agreed to turn over the triangle park at Greenwich and Seventh Aves., once it has finished constructing it, to the city. This means the park will never become a development site and will always be properly maintained. Rudin will spend $10 million to construct the park.
Also under the agreement, an AIDS memorial of 1,600 square feet, or one-tenth of the triangle, will be built in the park where the former hospital’s soon-to-be-removed oxygen tanks are located. We’re told the memorial’s design will be reviewed by Community Board 2 three times – in April, May and June. This means there will be a new transparency that the AIDS memorial process lacked before. Because this park will be city property, the memorial will further be reviewed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Parks Department.
Rudin has also agreed to contribute $1 million toward arts programs and projects at P.S. 41, P.S. 3 and the new school to be created in the Foundling Building at 16th St. and Sixth Ave. Our schools are always struggling to fund arts, so this is a welcome contribution.
(In an earlier agreement, the Rudins acted as a financial “backstop,” guaranteeing the purchase of the space for a school at the Foundling Hospital building.)
Rudin, additionally, will give $1 million to MFY Legal Services to help fund its efforts preserving rent-regulated housing in the neighborhood. This could pay for a staffer and services devoted to the Village area for the next 10 years. It would have been preferable if the project included affordable units, but this money will help tenants stay in their homes.
Last but not least, in a deal that was, of course, worked out well in advance of last week’s announcement, Rudin gave the O’Toole building and land – free of charge – to North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System for conversion into a 24/7, free-standing emergency department and comprehensive healthcare center. While 14 hospitals have closed in New York City neighborhoods in the last two years, Greenwich Village will be the only one to have some semblance of healthcare restored.
Let’s be clear, we’d all like to see a full-service hospital restored. But something is better than nothing. And hopefully, once the North Shore-L.I.J. facility is in place, it can eventually be upgraded to a small hospital. One thing we do know – this facility will be well used, and will be an important asset to the community.
Rudin estimates the cost of O’Toole and its land at $30 million. Plus, the developer is kicking in $10 million toward the E.R.’s development. So, that’s a $40 million commitment by Rudin to our community’s healthcare. Add in all the other concessions and contributions and Rudin has donated roughly $67 million to the community through this process.
While Quinn grabbed the headlines last week, a great deal of hard work by others preceded this, and has to be acknowledged. Last October, Board 2 put together a very thorough resolution on the Rudin plan, providing a road map of exactly those “asks and wants” that the developer had to fulfill before winning the community’s approval – from helping purchase 75 Morton St. to transferring the triangle park to city ownership. Next, C.B. 2 handed off the review to Borough President Scott Stringer, who stated that Rudin not only should transfer the park’s ownership, but that any air rights above the triangle should be permanently extinguished, so that the site is never at risk of being built on. In short, there are many to thank for last week’s agreement.
Yes, tragically, we lost our hospital. But this development project, with these agreements hashed out thanks to the hard work of C.B. 2, Stringer, Quinn and Rudin, is really a model of how a proposal can be made better and more responsive to the pressing needs of its community. It isn’t perfect – but, in the end, our local leaders and Rudin have come through for the community in a big way.