Friday, February 12, 2016

Lawyers grill absent rep for medical center plan

Shant Shahrigian
Osjua A. Newton/The Riverdale Press
Stuart Gartner criticizes Montefiore Medical Center’s plans for a new facility using a chair to represent the care provider, which did not send anyone to a Feb. 6 Community Board meeting.
Illustration courtesy of Newman Design
An artist’s rendering shows the original proposal for a new medical center on Riverdale Avenue. Its bulk has raised the hackles of its neighbors.

Two local lawyers turned the latest meeting of Community Board (CB) 8’s Land Use Committee into a veritable trial of Montefiore Medical Center.

While the Department of Buildings (DOB) disapproved Montefiore’s plans for a large new facility in Riverdale last month, the hospital is in the process of redrawing its plans, according to a spokesperson.

The fact that no one from Montefiore or the proposed new facility’s developer, the Simone Healthcare Development Group, came to the Feb. 6 meeting did not prevent Stuart Gartner, a construction litigation lawyer, from performing a cross-examination.

In a move reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s 2012 speech at the Republican National Convention, in which Mr. Eastwood spoke at an empty stool representing President Barack Obama, Mr. Gartner directed his remarks and questions at an empty chair symbolizing Montefiore and drawing audience laughs.

“I have a couple of questions of Mr. Montefiore,” Mr. Gartner said. “They came to the first meeting and told us that there was a need for this polyclinic in our community. They’ve hidden that secret report. It must be the same report to get us out of Vietnam. Where is the report? Why haven’t they shown us? Where is the need for this in our community?”

At previous meetings, Montefiore and Simone representatives said they decided to build an 11-story, 95,000-square-foot facility after determining Riverdale was medically underserved. Since then, elected officials and activists have disputed that claim and said the new medical facility would hurt the neighborhood’s character and increase traffic around the site of the new center — 3733, 3735 and 3741 Riverdale Ave. along with 3644 Oxford Ave.

At last Thursday’s meeting, Constantine Pantazis made those addresses the center of a courtroom-style presentation in which he theorized about Montefiore’s true intentions.

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