Upper East Siders call on Lenox Hill Hospital to rethink renovations

A rendering of the proposed Lenox Hill Hospital and tower (photo courtesy of Northwell Health.)

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Upper East Siders are asking Northwell Health to go back to the drawing board and produce a plan to modernize and expand Lenox Hill Hospital that abides by the neighborhood’s current zoning regulations.

The healthcare network, that took over the hospital in 2010, plans to pay for a $2.5 billion worth of renovations by constructing a 41-story apartment building on the northwest corner of the block from Park Avenue to Lexington Avenue between East 76th and East 77th Streets, where the hospital’s main campus lies. Some mechanical space would be used in the high-rise at the 27th and 41st floors of the building. 

Renovations include a renewed 516-foot-tall hospital would be filled with single bed patient rooms, a new emergency room, a new diagnostic and treatment center, new ambulance bay and a new mother and baby center. Northwell also plans to widen the buildings surrounding sidewalks which would call for moving the entrance to the 77th Subway station.  

“Both of my children were born there … so in principle I am in favor of that hospital,” said Dr. Juergen Sacklowski, a Lenox Hill resident and one of the many Upper East Siders that that filled the New York Blood Center Auditorium on Sept. 19 for a meeting in which representatives from Lenox Hill and Northwell Health presented a slideshow on proposed renovation plan details.

The presentation was made during a Community Board 8 Zoning and Development Committee meeting.

“However, what they want to do is absolutely insane,” Sacklowski added.

The presentation was met with massive criticism from the community board committee and community members who viewed the hospital’s plan as merely a vanity project.

The community board members and residents stated that they are not against modernizing a hospital but the proposed plan would require massive construction of buildings that exceeding current zoning regulation and ultimately place a midtown sized tower in a purely residential area.

According to CB8 Chair Alida Camp, the cite where Northwell wants to erect the 490 foot residential tower is zoned at 210 feet. Making the buildings out of context for the community.

Besides issue of character, residents worried about the building’s potential shadows, available parking, the impact construction would have on traffic and infrastructure, and how construction dust could impact health.

“We are deeply concerned about the project,” said Derek Dillon, a member of the Committee to Protect Our Lenox Hill Neighborhood opposed to the plan as is. “We will use everything within our means to stop it.”

Opponents also pushed back against the presentation stating that it did not provide enough detail about what would happen to the other buildings used by Lenox Hill Hospital, in particular one on 3rd Avenue, scattered around the neighborhood.

Community members were upset by what they said was a lack of transparency from Northwell Health and Lenox Hill Hospital, who have only spoken about the project once before. Representatives from the Northwell Health and Lenox Hill Hospital outlined the plan previously at a community board meeting in March.

Nearly every seat in the New York Blood Center Auditorium was filled, with a large number of attendees from a coalition of community groups including CIVITAS and the Committee to Protect Our Lenox Hill Neighborhood, created over the summer in response to the proposed changes to Lenox Hill Hospital. During the public comments section of the meeting, the line of Upper East Siders waiting to speak stretched out of the door.

In order to keep up with current state regulations, the facilities of the over 100-year-old hospital need to be upgraded, according to a spokesperson from Northwell Health. The spokesperson also said that the Northwell Health and Lenox Hill Hospital are dedicate to creating a facility that is for the community and plans to engage in more the hospital’s neighboring residents. Small group meetings were community members can give input as to how they envision the hospital are in the works for October, said the spokesperson.

The full-board of Community Board 8 will vote on a resolution regarding in Lenox Hill Hospital revitalization project on Oct. 23.