It’s been almost two years since St. Vincent’s unveiled its plans to build a new hospital building in the West Village, replacing its current Seventh Avenue and 11th Street location with luxury apartments and townhouses built by the Rudin family.
The plan isn’t moving quickly.
Monday—the day before the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission was planning to do a final vote on the proposal—a group of preservationists filed a lawsuit against the city and St. Vincent’s in an attempt to block the destruction of the O’Toole Building, the demolition of which is integral to the hospital’s plan.
At issue is whether, by law, St. Vincent’s is allowed to demolish the building, which sits on the planned site for its new hospital. In the suit, the preservationists claim that indeed the LPC was not allowed to grant St. Vincent’s permission to demolish the O’Toole Building—which they did in October, after St. Vincent’s said that leaving the building in place would impose a financial hardship. While the LPC is allowed to permit landlords to demolish landmarks on account of financial hardship, the preservationists say in their suit that St. Vincent’s did not fit the legal definition of “hardship.”
“The test … is ‘where maintenance of the landmark either physically or financially prevents or seriously interferes with the carrying out of the owner’s charitable purpose,’” the suit says. “The facility is currently being used, and can continue to be used, for ‘its originally expected use’ as an outpatient facility and for doctors’ offices, and St. Vincent’s has not claimed (nor could it) that the maintenance involves a financial hardship. As a result, the constitutional hardship test that would permit demolition of the O’Toole Building is not, and has not been, met. Whatever hardship, if any, St. Vincent’s faces, it is not caused by the O’Toole Building.”
Even if the hospital does make it through the LPC process, lawsuit and all, it still has to undergo a rezoning process, which entails a lengthy public review.
Update: 12:50 p.m.
Statement from St. Vincent’s:
Sadly, this lawsuit seeks to prevent St. Vincent’s from building a modern medical facility to serve Manhattan’s West Side and improve healthcare for thousands of New Yorkers. St. Vincent’s has taken every step possible to work with the City and local community — and we will continue to do so — in order to create a new hospital that will best accommodate the patients we proudly serve and the needs of Village residents.