Upper East Side community board rejects Lenox Hill Hospital plan

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Rendering of Lenox Hill Hospital in the Upper East Side. ( Photo courtesy of Northwell Health.)

Northwell Health’s planned upgrades to Lenox Hill Hospital received further opposition from Upper East Siders Wednesday night when the local community board voted to rejected the $2.5 billion project.

Opponents, mostly from the Committee to Protect Our Lenox Hill Neighborhood, filled the auditorium of the New York Blood Center where the community board voted on a resolution and cheered when speakers criticized the project. 

“Northwell’s project is not just damaging to our neighborhood but to the entire city,” said Andrew Soussloff, from the committee. As he spoke he held two renderings of the project which calls for building a 516-foot-tall hospital and 490-foot-tall apartment complex on the block. The proposed height of the buildings, which would sit between Park Avenue and Lexington from 76th to 77th Streets, despite the fact that current height limits in the neighborhood top off at 210-feet. 

According to Soussloff, the shadows created by the towers would be so large they would reach Central Park. Residents further criticized the project as being purely a means for Northwell Health to profit from selling luxury real estate and by creating a “medical tourism” destination that does not fit community needs.

Northwell plans to use revenue from the 41-story apartment complex to pay for the work on the hospital which includes changing double rooms to single-patient rooms and adding a new emergency room, a new diagnostic and treatment center, a new ambulance bay and a mother and baby center. The project also calls for expanding the building’s surrounding sidewalks and would require moving the entrance of the 77th Street subway station. 

Joshua Strugatz, vice president of Lenox Hill Hospital, assured attendees that the hospital and Northwell Health were listening to community concerns when it came to the hospital’s renovations.

“To maintain our future viability we need to make the necessary investments to meet your needs,” said Strugatz. The hospital and Northwell Health say they are planning on organizing a series of small meeting groups soon to further discuss community concerns.

But despite the community board’s vote in opposition to the project, the fight is far from over for opponents. Community boards are only advisory entities; the City Council has the final say on the matter.

The Committee to Protect Our Lenox Hill Neighborhood plans to rally support from neighboring businesses and sent a letter to New York State Health Department Commissioner Howard Zucker requesting that the agency deny a certificate of need Northwell needs to progress with the project earlier this month.

The group, which was created during the summer with the sole intent of stopping the hospital project, also plans on asking for support from local elected officials like Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilman Keith Powers. Brewer and Powers asked Northwell earlier this week to examine the scale, planning and timeline for the project before Wednesday’s vote.

“We know we are up against a $12 billion corporation, the largest employer in New York state with resources far beyond what we have,” said Andy Graspar, as a fellow member of the committee passed out flyers asking for donations to the nonprofit. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to stop them and we are going to give it a hell of a try.”