St. Vincent’s Hospital Redevelopment: Won’t Someone Think of the Waverly Inn?

Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter showed up almost three hours in to this morning’s Landmarks Preservation Committee meeting on the proposed St. Vincent’s Hospital rebuilding.

“I’m against it!” he said. The proposed towers would very nearly cast a shadow over his nearby restaurant, the Waverly Inn, after all.

So, the New York Sun‘s Peter Kiefer asked him, how does this rate on the scale of current development plans around the city? “This is up there,” Carter said. “If you care about Greenwich Village, this is up there. So I go through here?”

St. Vincent’s Hospital and the the Rudin Corporation would like to demolish nine buildings, build a 329 foot tower for St. Vincent’s Hospital proper, and a 21-story condo tower, as well as another residential building and 19 “townhouses,” between 11th and 12th Streets between 6th and 7th Avenues. (No, in fact, there has been no word about affordable housing.)

Inside the hearing, which had been moved to an auditorium at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in anticipation of a crowd, a Rudin family-employed architectural historian dismissed any importance of the buildings to be demolished—and dismissed New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff as well. (Ouroussoff wrote a scathing piece, published this morning, attacking the proposal.) “This is not a building that enhances the neighborhood,” one of hired hands said of the O’Toole building, the hospital’s smaller low white building with overhanging half-portholes for windows.

Frequent development hearing flyer Gil Horowitz, alternately of the 2 Fifth Avenue tenants’ organization (where he has been a 40-year resident), the Washington Square-Lower Fifth Avenue Community Association and other outfits, launched an attack on the project and the Rudin family, or, as he calls them, the Rudin Corporation. [Audio: 3′:48″, 3.8MB mp3 file.]

2 Fifth Avenue was built by the Rudin family in the 1950s, and it “displaced” a number of older buildings. (The then-editor of Foreign Affairs, Hamilton Fish Armstrong, said that “A large apartment on the corner would throw the Washington Arch out of scale and make it look like a meaningless toy,” calling the buildings that existed there “the only remaining monument of the life of Old New York.” Oh well!)

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn sent an emissary to express her lack of support for the Rudin’s St. Vincent application—although she expressed some enthusiasm for the new hospital tower.

State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick issued a denunciation of the project, calling the height of the residential tower “inappropriate” and “aesthetically unappealing.”

Senator Tom Duane also thought that tower, at 265 feet, would “overwhelm” the neighborhood.

Community Board 2 chair Brad Hoylman said that the Rudins and the hospital have “not engaged the Community Board in offering any possible concessions to their current plan.”

And Elizabeth Ryan, a 41-year resident of W. 12th Street, between 7th Avenue and Greenwich, was not pleased at all. (Boyfriends come and boyfriends go, she said, but a rent-stabilized two-bedroom is forever. Her cats like it.) What were the biggest changes she’d seen in the neighborhood? “Anorexic blondes,” she said. But she thought for a while. Not much, actually, had changed, she thought, and wasn’t that sort of the point of living in a historic district?

St. Vincent’s Hospital Redevelopment: Won’t Someone Think of the Waverly Inn?