View from one of the upper floors of Long Island College Hospital
A city without hospitals is unthinkable. Yet, as we have all witnessed in the last few years, rising real estate prices in New York City have made our medical facilities tempting targets for residential development. First, there was St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, which closed in 2010. Where once stood the third oldest hospital in the city, now rise luxury condominiums.
Closer to home, Long Island College Hospital, which has been serving residents in Downtown Brooklyn since 1858, has been gradually mismanaged in an attempt to shut it permanently. Its remaining real estate holdings would be sold to a developer, who would transform the buildings into housing.
Though Methodist Hospital in the heart of Park Slope is expanding service and is actively pursuing an ambitious expansion, who is to say that perhaps, in the future, the hospital may one day decide to sell some of its real estate to residential developers?
How do we make sure that our hospitals will be part of our communities in the future despite such pressures?
Carroll Gardens resident and real estate broker Jay Molishever may have come up with a simple disincentive which would eliminate the market pressure to turn hospitals into condos: change the zoning laws to protect our hospitals by preventing them from being used as residences for 30 years after hospital closure.
As a real estate broker, I am aware the market and developers push land to its "highest and best use," which is defined in only one narrow sense; the highest return of dollars per square foot. But cities use zoning laws to protect themselves and their citizens from the excesses of the market, thus we have height and bulk restrictions to prevent our homes and workplaces from being cast in shadow or buried in density; we prevent certain factories from being placed in areas of homes.Recently, Jay has started a Facebook petition entitled Ask the Mayor and Council to Zone Hospitals Non-Residential. He hopes that as critical mass builds, the Mayor and Council will be made aware of the support for this idea.
The greatest return of dollars per square foot for land and structures currently used as hospitals is now achieved by turning them into residences. Therefore institutions that own hospitals and managers who run them are under continual market pressure to have their use as hospitals compete with the potential return of turning them into housing - which they cannot compete with.
Thus institutions and administrators are under constant pressure to turn hospitals into housing, which usually happens by finding the hospitals suddenly "unprofitable" and non-sustainable through mismanagement, even in areas where population and need for the hospital are increasing.
If the new Mayor and Council simply change the New York City zoning regulations slightly to state that no land or building used as a hospital may be used for residences for a certain set lengthy period of time after the hospital is closed -- say 30 years -- it would remove this competitive use, and ways would suddenly be found to make these hospitals well-run and self-sustaining.
As a real estate broker and New Yorker, I support housing. This measure would not interfere with that; it would simply protect our hospitals, and the institutions and administrators who run them, from having to compete with housing by eliminating the possibility of that use through zoning.
If you agree, please like the Facebook page here.