Friday, January 10, 2014

Carroll Gardener Starts Petition To Urge New Mayor To Pass Simple Measure To Eliminate Market Pressures To Turn Hospitals Into Condos

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.
Jay writes:
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.
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.
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.
If you agree, please like the Facebook page here.


Anonymous said...

Not all hospitals in NYC or Brooklyn have killer views.
That's why the vultures are swooping in. It's prime luxury real estate. Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

This hospital land had zero value as residential land 10-30 years ago!

The problem in this city is that power and policy has been set to favor increased value in residential use of land with out any notion of a balanced community planning that actually is responsible for the preserved value like the hospital site.

If this trend keeps up, just who would want (or be able) to live in a Brooklyn that was nothing more than one big housing development with a basketball arena?

Is turning everything over to housing developers going to make a place, a community, a city that people will be able to exist in. Can't we imagine different policies that would inaccurate other "highest and best uses"?
Where have all the planners gone? To work for Toll?

Anonymous said...

This is a complex issue that has no easy answer, an nobody who is a reader of this blog is privy to the details of the hospital's management and usage data. It would be great to have an outpatient clinic and an emergency room, at the very least; the current ER at LICH is very good, especially for kids.

I can see selling off one or two of the older buildings, ones that would make easy conversions. But I cannot see how you can convert a massive, purpose built hospital building into apartments that anyone would live in. It would cost a fortune, and what about the relatively new parking lot, would they tear it down?

The whole thing is a mess. It's too bad that our entire medical system is run on a profit and loss basis - that's the real problem!

Katia said...

It sure is a huge mess that is not easily fixed. However, I would like to point out that much of the hospital's real estate has already been.
There is the Lamm Institute, that is now private housing, and there is also the former nursing school that stood at the corner of Union Street and Court Street. The huge Union/Sackett condo now stands there.
The money from those real estate transactions disappeared.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of loft-conversions. At the end of the day a rational economic decision must be made. This is America - not socialist, sclerotic Old Europe.

Anonymous said...

the concept to leave abandoned hospital buildings vacant for 30 years to prevent them from being redevloped is about as insane an idea as I have heard in a long time here. Shall we leave the building for the rats? or reuse them in some productive fashion? We have a for profit system in this country(at least for now) if the ownership of these facilties have mismanaged to the point of bankruptcy then someone else can certainly come in and try to make a go of it. Or perhaps we should have the geniuses at HHS who spent a billion dollars on that gov't web site run it?!?