Nearly two years ago, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village shut its doors in the face of millions of dollars of debt. The closure strained other hospitals in the city and also paved the way for a large rezoning and redevelopment process on the site.
Today, that development project took a big step forward, earning the approval of the City Planning Commission — the second to last step in the lengthy public review process required in New York City for projects like this.
The project, under Rudin Management, is a proposed mixed-use development on 7th Ave. between 11th and 12th streets. The buildings, according to City Planning, would contain approximately 450 residential units, around 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, 20,000 square feet of medical offices, and, notably, 17,000 square feet of public open space on the triangular parcel of land located west of the East Side.
It’s that triangular parcel that a group of advocates have their eyes on.
As the process for redeveloping this site has moved forward, a group called the New York City AIDS Memorial Park Campaign has been pushing to build a memorial on that triangle. In New York City, more people have died from AIDS than anywhere else in the country, yet there is no significant AIDS memorial, the backers of this project argue. So they’re hosting a pretty large design competition to come up with a plan for a memorial on the site. The competition closed over the weekend, and a panel of judges — which includes Whoopi Goldberg and Kenneth Cole — will start reviewing hundreds of ideas this week.
These proposals were not included in the development approved today, but organizers hope that they can bring the memorial concept into the project at the final stop of approval: City Council. And they’ve already built up some momentum today with City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden asking the developer to consider the interests of an AIDS memorial. “Given the past efforts of the applicant on this proposal, I am confident they will continue to work with the community in the future, including those interested in creating the AIDS memorial. I am very pleased to vote yes,” she said, according to remarks provided by City Planning.
Burden also praised the project for integrating new and historic buildings into a site plan and respecting the existing context of the neighborhood.
“New York City still has nothing to memorialize what happened,” Paul Kelterborn, co-founder of the AIDS Memorial Park project, told Runnin’ Scared today, referring to the AIDS crisis. “St. Vincent’s Hospital was really the epicenter of the epidemic, and with the demolition of the buildings, that means there’s going to be no standing reminder of what happened.”
Christopher Tepper, another co-founder, attended City Planning’s meeting today, and told Runnin’ Scared he was glad to hear the commissioner voice her support for a memorial.
“It’s so hard for people to visualize something when they don’t have a plan in front of them,” he said, referring to the fact that the winner of the competition hasn’t been selected yet. “To continue to get strong support before we have an image is exciting.”
The group plans to announce winners next Monday.