The Bloomberg administration has done an about-face on its plan to send the redevelopment of the former Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital though the city's standard (and intensive) public review process, known among real estate wonks as ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) — a move that has at least one project opponent fuming.
"This is a cute way of trying to go around the City Council, and I'm confident it will be subject to a legal challenge," said Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James.
The project in question, announced in March 2008, would turn the fabled institution at First Avenue and 30th Street, which has served the psychiatric needs of legendary, and legendarily unstable, New Yorkers like Eugene O'Neil, Charles Mingus, and Allen Ginsberg, into a hotel and conference center.
At the time, according to Ms. James and Councilman Daniel Garodnick, who represents the district in which the former psychiatric hospital is located, the city promised that the project would be subject to ULURP.
In a recent letter from Christina DeRose, senior project manager at the city's Economic Development Corporation, to Community Board 6 Chair Lyle Frank, Ms. DeRose admits as much, writing:
Originally it was understood that the required public approvals for the Psych Building RFP would be ULURP and compliance with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation Act Section 7385(6) ("Section 7385(6)"). …. In the process of conducting due diligence for the ULURP application it was determined by the New York City Law Department that the use restrictions associated with the 2001 ULURP apply only for a disposition of the Psych Building to NYCEDC. Since HHC will lease the Psych Building directly to the selected developer and retain the lease revenue for Bellevue Hospital, NYCEDC will not take title to the property. Therefore the ULURP use restrictions that would apply in the case of a disposition to NYCEDC are not applicable in this situation and we can continue with the HHC disposition process.
Ms. DeRose emphasized that, once a bidder is chosen for redevelopment , the proposal will still go through an extensive public review process, including appearances before the Bellevue Community Advisory Board, Community Board 6, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's office, and New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. It would further require the approval of the HHC Board of Directors, the City Council, and Mayor Bloomberg.
That might just be enough to satisfy Messrs. Garodnick and Frank.
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