Volume 16 • Issue 43 | March 26 - April 1, 2004

Gehry in, school out?

Community mulls future of hospital site

By Elizabeth O’brien

The celebrated architect Frank Gehry will likely be named the designer of a mixed-use tower slated for construction on the N.Y.U. Downtown Hospital parking lot site at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, according to Community Board 1 chairperson Madelyn Wils.

Plans for the lot, bordered by Spruce, Beekman, Nassau and Gold Sts., have not yet been announced. But community board members familiar with the negotiations said that Bruce Ratner, the developer, has tapped Gehry to design a 50-story tower on the site. Gehry has already paired up with Ratner on the design of the proposed New Jersey Nets arena in Brooklyn.

The tower will house apartments, stores, limited hospital facilities, and a Pace University dormitory, community board members said. Many local residents had hoped that the site would also include a public elementary and intermediate school, but that possibility now seems more remote, board members said.

A spokesperson for Forest City Ratner said the developer was still working out plans for the site. When asked about Gehry’s involvement, she neither confirmed nor denied that he would design the building.

“We want to have something real to talk about” before commenting, said Joyce Baumgarten, the spokesperson.

But plans have progressed to the point where Ratner has declared an interest in Liberty Bond financing for the parking lot project. Ratner has already filed a statement of intent with the Housing Development Corporation for $210 million in Liberty Bonds to build 370 apartments on the site, said Tracy Paurowski, a spokesperson for the city agency. The 9/11 financing could be used only for apartments and not for the site’s other uses, Paurowski said. She added that Pace would likely be one of the tower’s tenants.

In an interview last fall, Dr. Bruce Logan, the new president and C.E.O. of N.Y.U. Downtown Hospital, said the hospital planned to use 40,000 square feet of the parking lot development for its own outpatient facility. Logan was traveling and unavailable for comment, an assistant said on Wednesday. Vanessa Warner, a hospital spokesperson, said she could not comment on plans for the parking lot nor confirm that the deal with Ratner, who reportedly bought the site, had been finalized.

At a March 23 committee meeting, some C.B. 1 members voiced frustration that the possibility of a public school seemed less likely for the site. According to city education officials, Downtown is scheduled to receive a new public school for kindergarten through eighth grade within the next few years, and last fall Community Board 1 passed a resolution calling the parking lot an attractive location for the new school.

“This is a prime site,” said Marc Donnenfeld, a member of the youth and education committee of C.B. 1. “This is a site they’re in a hurry to build, and we could’ve gotten our school.”

Wils, who also serves on the board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, said it would be important for the community to find a site for its new K-8 school within a matter of months.

A Gehry spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.



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