Over 6,600 sign petition against Lenox Hill Hospital Expansion

Lenox Hill Hospital
Lenox Hill Hospital
Photo via Google Maps

Save Lenox Hill, a group that formed in opposition to the Lenox Hill Hospital’s extensive renovation plan, recently announced that it gathered over 6,600 signatures in an online petition against the project. 

The group touted the results as a sign of what’s to come if Northwell Health moves forward its $2.5 billion plan to build a 436-foot tower that would take 11 years to construct. 

“The prospect of enduring 11 years of construction, increased congestion, massive disruption for local small businesses and the upheaval of our daily lives is simply unacceptable,” said Stephanie Reckler, a member of the group’s executive committee. “Our community deserves better, and as Northwell presses ahead with their efforts to get this tower approved, we expect opposition to continue to build.”

The group anticipates Northwell Health to formally begin pushing forward with its rezoning request in the next few months. Reckler clarified that the group agrees that the hospital needs renovating but it finds the proposal to be a bid for industry relevancy in a manner that ignores the needs of the neighborhood. It hopes to find a “more suitable solution” that makes a compromise with its neighbors, preferably before the healthcare company moves forward with any rezoning.

A Northwell spokesperson said that the healthcare provider started its community engagement process in 2019. “We’ll continue to seek input and feedback from the community as we focus on making sure Lenox Hill remains a state-of-the-art hospital that is built to serve New Yorkers for generations to come,” said the spokesperson.

What the hospital group presented to Manhattan Community Board 8 last February entails a complex rezoning of the entire block from 76th to 77th Streets and Park to Lexington Avenues. While Northwell did reduce the height of its proposed tower by 80 feet in response to community feedback, it still is seeking a tower that is maximum height limit and would require a substantial rezoning.

Reckler suggested that there would be less disruption if the hospital group kept the existing building and renovated it on the inside, or took down the whole site and put up a hospital within the current zoning regulations, instead of pursuing a plan that residents are worried will cause years of traffic congestion and disturbance.

Last year, Save Lenox Hill organized a community meeting that brought out over 400 community members to listen to a panel voice concerns over the proposal

Of those present, State Sen. Liz Krueger reportedly said that the area, known as “bedpan alley,” on account of its stretch of hospitals, doesn’t need a new hospital building. Congressmember Jerry Nadler has also criticized the plan. But Councilmember Keith Powers, whose district incorporates the site and has a key vote on the City Council, has not publicly come out against the latest proposal after he helped negotiate a plan to reduce its initial height. 

“Through this process we have achieved meaningful reductions to the size and scale of the project, and I remain committed to addressing the community’s concerns and ensuring that the hospital continues to provide high-quality care to New Yorkers,” Powers said in a statement.

Save Lenox Hill has argued that the scale of the renovation project is not warranted from a public health perspective in an area that already contains six hospitals. Northwell’s CEO Michael Dowling provoked the ire of residents when he pitched the proposal to the Wall Street Journal as his bid to stay “continuously relevant in New York” by maintaining the hospital’s “major presence in Manhattan.”

“We don’t dispute that Northwell is a critical institution in delivering healthcare for New Yorkers. What we oppose is building a palace filled with luxury patient rooms on the Upper East Side and calling it healthcare. We call it Dowling’s vanity,” Reckler said.