August 9, 2019
Manhattan Community Board 8
505 Park Avenue, Suite 620
New York, NY 10022
Re: Proposed Expansion of Lenox Hill Hospital
Dear Members of Manhattan Community Board 8:
I write to voice my family’s significant concerns regarding the ambitious and excessive expansion plans that Lenox Hill Hospital has proposed for its Upper Eastside facilities. We live directly across the street from the hospital, and stand to be severely impacted by the hospital’s expansion.
My elderly parents purchased their apartment at 136 East 76th St. almost forty years ago when I was in my last years of high school, and have resided there ever since. My husband and I purchased our apartment in the same building more than sixteen years ago and have been raising our children there. We have a wonderful sense of community in our building and immediate neighborhood, and we greatly appreciate the character and nature of our surroundings. As one may expect, our home purchases are the most significant financial transactions in our lives, and the stability of our home values is obviously important to our financial health.
I attended the April 2019 meeting of Community Board 8 where the hospital revealed its plans for a massive renovation and expansion of its facilities, and I was distressed to learn of the enormous scope of its proposal. As noted, our building is on the southwest corner of 76th Street and Lexington Avenue, directly across the street from Lenox Hill Hospital. Frankly, I am terrified that if the hospital is permitted to pursue its plan as proposed, it will be devastating to both our quality of life and financial well-being.
The hospital claims that its proposal is in the best interests of the community, but it is not. Rather, the proposed plan is in the best interests of the hospital and its goal of outshining the other large teaching hospitals in the neighborhood. Comments from the hospital’s own chief executive, Michael Dowling, undermine the hospital’s purported interest in the public’s benefit and reveal that his key desire is for prestige. He told the Wall Street Journal that, “You have to have such a facility in Manhattan to be continuously relevant in New York,” and “I can build the greatest thing in the world in Queens or in Long Island, which we’ve done. But you still have to have a major presence in Manhattan.” (March 8, 2019).
He also told Crain’s that “Manhattan is the epicenter of change. You can’t walk two blocks without seeing change,” and “That’s life, and why there is a process and transparency. Change is difficult for everyone, but in the end, the community will have an incredible resource that will serve local residents for generations to come.” (March 28, 2019). These comments are completely tone deaf to the horrendous impact that the development will have on local residents. Indeed, the community can have an incredible resource in Lenox Hill Hospital at half the proposed size, without having a behemoth of an institution plunked smack dab in the middle of a historic residential neighborhood. Further, the community already has incredible resources with NY Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center half a mile away, and Mt. Sinai Hospital one mile away, and it does not need Lenox Hill Hospital to expand to be well-served.
The hospital tower proposed for the corner of 76th and Lexington (immediately facing our apartment), and the residential tower proposed for the corner of 76th and Park are of such extraordinary heights that they will cause 76thstreet between Park and Lexington to become a canyon devoid of natural light and air. The outrageous zoning variances that the hospital is seeking to permit it to build to 516 feet should be denied, and the hospital should only be permitted to build to the height of the surrounding buildings on Park and Lexington.
Presumably, if the hospital forgoes the proposed residential development on Park Avenue, and instead uses the full footprint of its property for hospital facilities, it could accomplish its stated health care delivery goals without building to extreme heights.
With the proposed main hospital entrance on the corner of 76th and Lexington, the street and sidewalk traffic immediately in front of our building will be extremely congested with vehicle pick-ups and drop-offs. In addition, our apartments will be flooded with artificial light all night long. An entrance, preferably inset and off the street, on Lexington Avenue would clearly impede traffic much less.
Moreover, the expansion of the main hospital block has to be reviewed together with the hospital’s plans to develop other locations in the immediate neighborhood, including the whole block on Third Avenue from 76th to 77thSt., a building on the North side of 75th St. between Park and Lexington, a building on the South side of 76th St. between Park and Lexington, and buildings on the North side of 77th St. between Park and Lexington. Altogether, the hospital will end up sprawled across several streets and avenues, creating more street and sidewalk congestion than ever before and indelibly changing our residential environment.
In sum, we do not object to the hospital making reasonable changes to modernize and improve care; however, the hospital’s proposal goes way beyond that and will inhibit our quality of life and depress our home values for “generations to come.”
Very truly yours,