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03 May 2017
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From Operating Theater to Living Room

“We have a room for you,” you might hear as you enter St. Vincent’s Hospital in the West Village.  But if you’re looking to address that broken arm of yours, you’ve come to the wrong place.  What was once St. Vincent’s Hospital is now “The Greenwich Lane”—a new condo development built in the structure of its predecessor.  In New York City, many old hospitals are being repurposed as condos, apartments and townhouses to accommodate the rising demand for housing.

Another new hospital-to-condo conversion is happening at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Brooklyn, which will soon be known as “River Park.”  The development contains seventeen condos in the historic Polhemus building, once a medical school and operating theater.  Further down the hospital grounds, eight townhouses are in the works.  The company behind this project, Fortis Property Group, also plans to add in three entirely new buildings.

Hospitals are not the only old buildings undergoing a facelift.  The Ridgewood Theater on Myrtle Avenue, Queens, has recently been converted into apartments by developer Bushburg Properties.  Bushburg is responsible for other similar conversions, such as that of a Catholic school at 180 Bainbridge Street, Bed-Stuy, into 46 apartments.  Some industrial buildings are making the switch as well, like the Art Deco landmark at 140 West Street, which until recently held outdated telecommunications equipment for Verizon.  It was bought in 2013 by Magnum Real Estate Group for redevelopment into 161 luxury condos.

Critics of these conversions, be they of hospitals, churches, theaters, or parking garages, argue that the new high-end residences change the neighborhoods in unfavorable ways.  In the instance of The Greenwich Lane above, locals have taken issue with the new development’s lack of affordable housing.  At River Park, community members are frustrated with the size and exclusivity of the new buildings.  In addition, they say that the small branch of NYU Langone Medical Center currently open at the site hardly makes up for the loss of the massive medical facility it is replacing.  In Ridgewood, Queens, locals are up in arms about prices for new apartments at The Theater, which start at $2,300 a month.

New York City is short on space and in desperate need of new housing.  Developers have long seen opportunity in a variety of abandoned buildings, including churches, schools, movie theaters, and now hospitals.  Organizations like the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District and the Cobble Hill Association have expressed hope at the revitalization these conversions may bring to the neighborhood, while also maintaining local landmarks that had fallen into disrepair.  However, some critics remain concerned that developments like River Park will ultimately shut themselves off from the rest of the neighborhood.

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