A recap of the July 14, 2014 NBN6 Meeting

Per Highland Hospital’s request, the July meeting of the NBN6 (Neighbors Building Neighborhoods, Sector 6) focused on the hospital’s expansion plans. Here’s a brief recap.

Hospital COO Cindy Becker outlined the hospital’s seven strategic priorities:

1. Modernize/increase the size of the operating rooms

2. Convert semi-private patient rooms to private rooms, to meet market demand and industry standards

3. Create a dedicated observation unit

4. Create more storage for equipment and so forth

5. Modernize the cafeteria

6. Modernize the PACU (post-anesthetic care unit)

7. Modernize facilities infrastructure

Ms. Becker stated that the hospital will not increase its overall number of licensed beds, but will keep to its current 261 .

She said that the hospital considered several plans to meet its needs. One was to build a new hospital, which was not financially feasible. The hospital also feels that it cannot adequately rehabilitate its existing space or move any more functions off-site than it already has. The conclusion the hospital’s study group came to was to build a new structure on the south parking lot, next to Mount Vernon (see map).

Two options were considered for the construction process. One involved demolishing the current South Building and moving the employees in that building to newly created office space at 27 Bellevue Drive. According to Ms. Becker, this option was rejected, resulting in the hospital’s plan to sell 27 Bellevue.*

The new structure on the south parking lot will be two stories, with 13,000 square feet per floor. The building’s foundation will be constructed so that it could, at some point in the future, go up to seven floors.

During the discussion of aging infrastructure, hospital representatives stated that other buildings on the campus – the east and west wings were specifically mentioned – will likely need to be torn down and replaced in the near future.

The architectural design process will take approximately 9 more months. During that time, the hospital will be working with the city to change/upgrade its zoning designation. (Currently it is under what is called an IPD, an outdated designation. It will change to a PD.) It will also need to obtain a Certification of Need from the New York State Department of Health. Hospital representatives stated that they will continue to meet with neighborhood representatives as the process moves forward.

Time was set aside for neighbors to ask questions and make comments. During that time, Strong Hospital CEO Steve Goldstein took the floor to speak about the hospital’s commitment to providing high-quality health care to the community. Mr. Goldstein left before neighborhood response portion of the meeting. Neighbors expressed concerns about the construction timeline, noise and traffic, where the displaced cars from the discontinued south lot will park, the ability to influence the project to fit in with neighborhood character, rumors about the hospital’s continued interest in 428 Mount Vernon (hospital representatives stated it had none), and the hospital’s history of buying and selling 27 Bellevue (twice to date).

The loudest and longest applause of the meeting came when South Avenue resident Vicki Robertson spoke: “I was here in this neighborhood 20 years ago the last time you bought the house. I don’t want to do this (again in the future). So please can you find a way to communicate to your successors that this is a neighborhood that wants a successful hospital….we want to have everybody succeed. But we don’t want and we won’t stand for being eaten up by the hospital.”

Defend Urban Neighborhoods is pleased that the hospital has decided to keep its current expansion project within its footprint, as we asked them to do in our petition. We will be setting up a general meeting to discuss our next steps. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Thank you for your support.

*The hospital’s ownership of 27 Bellevue Drive was controversial then and has been again since hospital officials told neighborhood residents at a Nov. 14, 2013 meeting about its active effort to buy the property. At that time and again at a March 6 meeting following the Jan. 15 purchase, hospital officials said they didn’t know how they would use the house. Options included leaving it vacant or renting it, they said. Using it for storage was also mentioned at the Nov. 14 meeting.

 When asked directly why they bought the house, Mike Zanghi, the hospital’s director of facilities, said on March 6 that it’s “contiguous to our property. That’s why we bought it.” He explained that the hospital wanted to expand its footprint, following a model it had used in the past, of purchasing nearby homes.

 Unbeknownst to the neighborhood residents at the time, the hospital had initiated talks with City Planning and Zoning in February to update its outdated zoning code, and, by law, contiguous properties can be included in new zoning plans. Just like that 27 Bellevue Drive’s zoning could change from residential to institutional use—pending city approval. 

Also on March 6, 2014, a hospital representative stated that although the hospital’s purchase offer on 428 Mount Vernon had expired, the hospital was still interested in the property. When asked about 428 Mount Vernon at the July 14 meeting, COO Cindy Becker claimed the hospital hadn’t been interested in that property "in years,” and characterized it as ancient history.

 Also in that March meeting, and again to the local media in May, hospital representatives stated interest in acquiring more properties in the neighborhood as they became available. These new acquisitions, we were told, would be converted to office space.

 The recasting of the history of the purchase of 27 Bellevue, and evasion of the attempts to purchase other neighborhood properties, is troubling.


Highland Hospital to sell 27 Bellevue, will discontinue pursuit of more residential property at this time

It was revealed yesterday that in June, Highland Hospital's Board of Directors voted not to purchase additional residential properties and has approved the sale of 27 Bellevue. We are relieved, and we hope that Highland and the University of Rochester will take the idea of expanding into the residential neighborhood off the table once and for all.

Thanks to our hard-working PR team, this has gotten quite a bit of media coverage. You can watch television reports featuring some of your neighbors here:

WROC Channel 8/RochesterHomepage.net

Time Warner Cable News Rochester

13 WHAM ABC Rochester


What's next? Defend Urban Neighborhoods will remain vigilant. Highland Hospital will reveal its imminent expansion/modernization plans at an open meeting on Monday, July 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the Olmsted Lodge in Highland Park. We hope to see everyone there. There will be an opportunity to ask questions, offer comments and express concerns.

We hope that Highland Hospital will be willing to discuss issues like traffic, parking, noise, trash, neighborhood aesthetics, and future development plans openly and without the brinksmanship we have seen in the past.


A Midsummer Night's Dream indeed

It occurs to me that our evening walk last night provides a perfect illustration of why our neighborhood is a great one and worth preserving. We
(1) met a German family whose kids wanted to pet the dog; 
(2) met a Somali family whose kids wanted to pet the dog;
(3) watched some skateboarders practicing tricks;
(4) watched a group of African drummers and dancers;
(5) ran into our spitfire 88-year-old neighbor, who talked about the therapy group she runs for men with addictions;
(6) watched the incredibly dedicated and hard-working Rochester Community Players rehearse for A Midsummer Night's Dream, which they will be performing in Highland Bowl for free July 5-19 except Mondays and Thursdays;
(7) passed by the Wednesday-night-rain-or-shine-all-summer-long volleyball group;
(8) ran across a couple of dozen people playing some kind of elaborate bean bag toss game with snacks and beer. 

Yes, growth and change and development are inevitable. They are desirable. But they should be done in a way that preserves the character of the neighborhood. The character of this neighborhood promotes interaction on a person-to-person scale. It's why we love it here.

upcoming meetings of note

Monday, June 9
NBN6 (Neighbors Building Neighborhoods) Meeting 
Olmsted Lodge, 171 Reservoir Avenue, Highland Park
5:30 - 7 p.m.

Tuesday, June 10
HPNA General Meeting and Potluck
Ellwanger and Barry Park (Linden and Meigs)
7 - 8:30 p.m.

Issues with Highland Hospital will be discussed at both meetings. All are welcome. Click here for more info on the HPNA meeting.

Stop by and see us during the Landmark Society's House & Garden Tour

Two homes on the Landmark Society of Western New York House and Garden Tour, June 7-8, are on the block where Highland Hospital purchased a house in January, which remains vacant. The hospital’s plans for its house at 27 Bellevue Drive remain unclear.  

27 Bellevue Drive is owned by Highland Hospital and is vacant

27 Bellevue Drive is owned by Highland Hospital and is vacant

Members of Defend Urban Neighborhoods, an affiliate of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association, will staff an information table on Bellevue Drive during the tour, seeking support in retaining the neighborhood’s residential character. The group opposes expansion of Highland Hospital’s footprint and will seek signatures on a petition to retain the neighborhood’s residential zoning, which would prevent the hospital from using homes it owns or acquires for institutional purposes.

Wayne Goodman, executive director, The Landmark Society of Western New York, issued this statement of support for Defend Urban Neighborhoods:

"The preservation of our urban neighborhoods is important to our overall livability in the Rochester region. A strong urban core leads to a stronger metro area as a whole. The historic character of urban neighborhoods is paramount to the larger issue of sustainable, urban city living. Rochester's historic neighborhoods have weathered the storm of urban flight and are now poised to be more vibrant than ever, as these types of neighborhoods become the neighborhoods of choice for a new generation of entrepreneurial, community-conscious individuals."  

Highland Hospital also made a purchase offer on the bed and breakfast at 428 Mount Vernon Avenue at the entry to block-long Bellevue Drive, but the offer was not accepted. 

 Tickets for the Landmark Society Tour are available online or at Parkleigh.