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Klein, Dinowitz state budget measure forces Montefiore Medical Center back to drawing board on Riverdale med facility

Senator Klein measure kills Montefiore Medical Center’s Riverdale project

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The borough’s mightiest hospital chain has been cut off at the knees.

Bronx state Senator Jeff Klein has taken aim at a proposed Montefiore Medical Center facility in south Riverdale by slipping a measure into the state budget that will halt any construction until the healthcare giant answers to locals in a series of community forums.

Klein’s law seems designed specifically to take out an 11-story 93,000-square-foot outpatient care center planned for a residential stretch of south Riverdale .

Monte in cross-hairs

Klein’s legislation —co-sponsored in the Assembly by Riverdale elected Jeff Dinowitz— requires planned healthcare complexes within Bronx County that are over three stories tall, or larger than 30,000 square feet, to now jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops.

Right now, only the Montefiore Riverdale project falls within the law’s crosshairs. The hospital had proposed the 11-story building on a residential part of Oxford Avenue near Riverdale Avenue – outraging locals who said the project would dwarf the existing homes there and bring with it unwanted traffic congestion.

After a slew of mandatory community forums, the state Department of Health commissioner will now have power to rule on whether the facility can be built.

Board 8 fight

The law will either boggle Montefiore’s plan in red tape – Klein says construction on the building could not start for at least two years – or kill it off entirely.

“This project will never get built under my watch,” said Klein, who is up for reelection this November in a district that includes Riverdale. “I have been fighting this project from day one because everything about it, from its size to its location, is wrong for Riverdale.”

The hospital chain had been grappling with local Community Board 8 since Montefiore introduced the $50 million design from developer Simone Development last October.

Board members said they hoped the new law would force Montefiore to downsize its plan and answer its critics.

“If one guy has all the cards in his hands, he doesn’t have to communicate. He stiff arms you,” said Charles Moerdler, chair of CB 8’s land use committee. “What Klein has done is create a surgically applied piece of legislation that forces Montefiore into a dialogue, not a monologue.”

Historic oversight

A Montefiore spokesperson said the hospital had heard the community outcry before Klein’s law and already planned to submit a new proposal taking local input into account.

Montefiore told elected officials in January 2014 that they had pulled its original application, the spokesperson said — though there was some dispute over whether or not that had really happened.

Montefiore would have been able to build on the site “as-of-right”, without applying for any changes to the existing zoning —a process that requires formal community input.

They also were exempt from applying for a “Certificate of Need” with the state Health Department because they were building an outpatient ambulatory center and not a hospital.

Possible loophole?

Now, they’ll have more oversight, and many roadblocks. But Monte spokesperson Brette Peyton warned that by creating such a specific law targeting healthcare complexes, lawmakers may have opened up the community to a greater danger —another type of towering development.

“It would be highly unfortunate if this new provision results in the construction of a significant development, which could be built ‘as of right’ and is not restricted by this legislative language,” said Peyton, “in place of a healthcare facility for seniors, families and children.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at bkochman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.
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