Which Are We For, Hospitals Or Condos?

Readers who have thought that the official position of the New York Progressive is to support hospitals and oppose condos have been in for a couple of recent surprises.  Is there a unifying principle?

As to just where you may have gotten the idea that a right-thinking Progressive should support hospitals and oppose condos, perhaps it was from the de Blasio campaign.  If your memory is short, check out the photos at this post from last August, showing de Blasio campaigning with Susan Sarandon here in the West Village in opposition to the new condo development under construction on the former site of our local hospital, St. Vincent's.  The signs read "Save Our Hospitals" and "Hands Off Our Hospitals." 

Meanwhile, out in Brooklyn, at least four hospitals remain in some stage of death throes.  Long Island College Hospital either has or has not finally done a deal to turn into a glorified emergency room and have the rest of the site developed into housing.  Interfaith just survived death with a last minute infusion from the State to enable it to exit bankruptcy (for the moment).  And at least two other hospitals are reported to be in serious financial trouble.  So perhaps we should all be relieved that Methodist Hospital in upscale Park Slope is proposing a substantial expansion to bring its facility up to top modern standards.

Not so fast!  On Wednesday July 30 an organization called Preserve Park Slope filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the zoning change that would enable the hospital to expand.  Here's a link to their website.  The basis for the suit:

“The process to secure approval of these variances has been conducted with complete disregard to key elements of the law, including proper environmental review and recognition of the 2003 re-zoning of the area,” said Andrea Stewart, a member of Preserve Park Slope and a petitioner in the lawsuit.

And as to opposing condos, I wouldn't be so sure of that one either.  New York has seen two great periods of the creation of top-end multi-family owner-occupied housing.  One is right now, and the previous one was a few generations ago in the 1920s.  Of course all right-thinking people are horrified by the current wave of wildly priced high end construction.  But how about those from the previous period, now known as the grandes dames of Park Avenue, West End Avenue, and Riverside Drive, among others?

The answer is, notwithstanding occupation by the super-rich, these now-iconic condos (and co-ops) must be preserved!  Indeed, after a long campaign by landmarking activists, the blocks of upper Park Avenue from 79th Street to 91st Street were just designated as a landmark district in April.  Other sections between 62nd Street and 79th Street were already landmarked, so the new designation means that almost the entire stretch of Park Avenue between the midtown office district and the emergence of the railroad viaduct from its tunnel at 95th Street is now landmarked.

So what is the unifying principle?  Forget the whole hospital/condo thing; that is just incidental to the NIMBYism of the moment.  I suggest this, from my "About" page:

[T]he current built environment is optimal and all attempts to change it in any way must be opposed at all costs.