Greentree Foundation President Nicholas Gabriel discussed with the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations his concerns Thursday about North Shore University Hospital’s proposed surgical expansion feet from the former Whitney estate.
When Gabriel heard that Northwell Health executives Derek Anderson and Elena Danilova alongside project architect Andrew Pecora with Cannon Designs had presented plans for an advanced surgical pavilion to the council at its January meeting, he immediately reached out to council President Richard Bentley to make his own presentation on the plans.
Gabriel and Greentree Foundation attorney Jeff Forchelli told members the plans for the seven-story advanced surgical pavilion would affect the philanthropic organization that is known as the go-to retreat spot for United Nations members.
The $342 million planned expansion will have two floors of parking, one floor of 18 surgical suites, one floor of intensive care units and two shell floors for additional private intensive care units to be added over time.
At its peak, the building would reach about 138 feet including the rooftop cooling tower, and the roof itself would be about 111 feet high.
Gabriel said since much of the Greentree Foundation property is in a neighboring valley, the proposed spot for the hospital’s intensive care units as well as a floor of surgical suites would be visible from the main road as well as the open fields.
“We’re not against their program,” Gabriel said of the hospital. “We’re not against them improving their setup, but they’ve boxed themselves into this corner. We support the hospital and we support what it does, but in this case, they are doing something that will really have an impact on us and our ability to carry on with our mission.”
In a photo provided by Cannon Designs to Gabriel, the top two floors, which are currently set as shell space for intensive care units to be moved into the building over a few years after construction, would be visible.
During the January meeting, Anderson and Pecora both said they had been in contact with Gabriel and the foundation during the planning, but Gabriel said he was alerted about the plans before the Town of North Hempstead’s zoning board the day after the first hearing in October because the town sent the notification to a former Greentree Foundation address in Manhattan.
Anderson said after the meeting, he was surprised that no one from the foundation was at the town hearing and reached out to Gabriel.
Gabriel said he has two main requests for the surgical pavilion project: make the building slightly shorter or move it farther from the property line.
Gabriel said the groups met again in December and January, and he was told that their concerns could be addressed but it would cost more than the projected $342 million cost for the pavilion.
Anderson, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said the cost was one concern, but moving the infrastructure lines that run through the existing parking lot into the circle drive would also force the hospital to use generators and lose sewer connections during the construction.
Taking off the top two floors, Anderson said, would negatively impact the hospital’s future as well.
“Shrinking the size of the building would impact the program which, from our standpoint, would ultimately hurt the needs of the community we’re trying to serve,” Anderson said in an interview Monday. “We’ve done a lot of work to try and understand what this local and regional community needs … for the next 30 years, and this building reflects those needs.”
Gabriel said he also requested more screening between the proposed structure and the foundation’s property and was offered some screening with new trees but on the foundation’s property instead of Northwell’s.
The property, which was more than 1,000 acres during the time of the original owners, John Hay and Betsy Whitney, is now about 406 acres and still hosts the original estate house, which was built at the turn of the 20th century and now serves as a meeting house and has 15 bedrooms.
All of the North Shore University Hospital property was either donated or cheaply sold to Northwell Health over the years, Gabriel said.
“Everybody agrees [North Shore University Hospital] is a huge complex, it’s a wonderful employer, it’s good for our local economy — there are plenty of positives,” Bentley said. “No one is saying Northwell shouldn’t expand and they don’t need a new facility. It’s the simple architecture and design of putting it right in the face of the property line at Greentree that’s problematic to Greentree, and if it’s problematic for Greentree, it’s problematic to Manhasset as a community.”