A hand-painted sign that read, "Methodist, Serve and Preserve Park Slope," had its own seat Wednesday night at Park Slope's Community Board 6 (CB6) meeting.
The CB6 panel ultimately - against many community members’ strong wishes – gave its support to New York Methodist Hospital's plans for an eight story, U-shaped outpatient hospital add-on that will serve an additional 100,000 patients annually.
Although the motion was passed by a vote of 27 to 4, the board's lengthy and tension-filled discussion Wednesday night showed it to be no easy verdict.
The board’s frustration, in one part, had to do with the fact that the hospital hasn't met a height limit required by the neighborhood's zoning.
"They have not met their burden," said board chair Daniel Krummer. "The most important context for this motion that shouldn't be lost is the 2003 rezoning of Park Slope. These are the characteristics that define Park Slope."
Krummer emphasized this issue by reading a letter from 2003 in regards to the rezoning. There are three different sets of zoning within the hospital plans, each with different height requirements.
"If you boil it all down what this motion says is that we want this project to stay within the height limits of rezoning," Krummer said.
In early reports, Methodist officials have said that they want the new facility to be one tall building for maximum working efficiency, so that their staff does not have to leave one building to get to another.
Lyn Hill, a spokesperson for Methodist Hospital, said they could build two buildings with the same square footage if the zoning variances are not granted.
Although height is an issue the board has been battling with, Krummer warned the community why the variance should be passed.
"This is one of those situations in life where you have to be careful what you wish for,” he said. “The hospital owns a lot of land and could build a huge structure if they had to." If the board voted down the motion, he warned, the community would lose any say going forward on the project.
Land Use Chair Peter Flemming brought to attention some changes the hospital has made to balance some of the community's concerns regarding traffic and parking.
The proposed 8th Avenue entrance that brought with it concerns of heavy traffic, will only be open to staff.
The facility will also change its urgent care hours from the late afternoon into the evening when there is less traffic. Flemming stated that the board would hold the hospital to those conditions.
Seventh Street resident Eve Gartner believes the Brooklyn health care crisis is much bigger than the issues surrounding the expansion, and that the community is not opposed to strengthening the system.
"We're not opposed to the project, but to where they're putting it," Gartner explained. "We're not opposed to doing this, but if you're going to do it, do it with some good urban planning.”
CB6's vote is only advisory. The application will ultimately be approved or denied by the Board of Standards and Appeals.