Tuesday, May 3, 2022

A campaign to support landmark designation of the Eye and Ear Infirmary on 2nd Avenue

Preservationists are rallying to support the Eye and Ear Infirmary on Second Avenue at 13th Street. 

Here's more via Village Preservation
The historic Eye and Ear Infirmary ... is in danger of being lost forever. This striking building, which was built in stages between 1856 and 1903, with most of it dating to the 1890s, housed what is the oldest specialized hospital in the Western Hemisphere, founded in 1820 by two doctors known as the "fathers of American ophthalmology." 

This institution became an icon of comprehensive and accessible care for the public, attracting Helen Keller to speak at the ribbon-cutting for the final stage of the building in 1903. 
Unfortunately, the building’s fate is now clouded. It is being emptied of doctors and services as a move several blocks to the north is being contemplated. No matter what happens, this striking piece of our city’s history deserves to be spared from the wrecking ball. 
This link has info on how to support the landmark designation of the infirmary. 

Last summer, Mount Sinai Beth Israel officials announced that they were no longer pursuing the "$1 billion downtown transformation" that would have seen the creation of a new 7-story hospital on 13th Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue. This building appeared to exist among the new facilities.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I’ve admired that building for years and really hope they save it. I can’t walk down the block on the 13th Street side without studying the Romanesque details and marveling at all the skilled work that went into its construction. In terms of loss to the city, its demolition would be within hailing distance of what they did to Penn Station.

noble neolani said...

I encourage everyone who value our city's architectural history and the irreplaceable beauty and connection to the past, to sign the petition linked in this article. I take one minute to save our history.

JAMES said...

I love older buildings and architecture..To me this was always an eyesore at best. Wont miss it.

Neighbor said...

What would be the intended use for this site? Is it being landmarked to turn into housing or something useful to community? We shouldn't just landmark buildings if it serves to limit their uses and permanently prevent housing from being built.

Anonymous said...

back in the 90’s(?) I think I used to pay my phone bill in the lobby of that building

Anonymous said...

It's possible that they might sell off this building to fund their renovations. I attended one of their community outreach meetings before the pandemic and they've been in the red for years.

Anonymous said...

@11:56AM: No, you couldn't possibly have paid your phone bill in the lobby of a HOSPITAL. But you *could* have paid your phone bill across the street from there, in the lobby of the PHONE COMPANY building.

@1:43PM: "they've been in the red for years" - WHO are you saying has been in the red for years? The Eye & Ear Infirmary, or Beth Israel, or Mt. Sinai (which now owns Beth Israel)?

This beautiful building should be preserved fully, and this is just one more attempt at cashing-in (or cashing-out) by Mt. Sinai, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Let's just landmark every building, never build new housing, and keep on complaining about the rising cost of renting and buying homes.

Anonymous said...

@2:39 PM
It was Mt. Sinai. The meeting was in 2019 and if I remember correctly they were bleeding something north of $100m a year.

Anonymous said...

@3:18PM: Please stop being ridiculous. I might as well say "let's tear down every building in NYC that predates 1990" b/c that would be a statement as ridiculous as yours is.

Anonymous said...

Mt. Sinai was stupidly optimistic in their "expansion" concept - to build a small hospital on 13th St. that would have increased traffic of all kinds (and noise, due to ambulances, around the clock).

There is no reason to allow them to tear down this beautiful building just b/c Mt. Sinai guessed wrong. They already tore down the housing for medical students that was just east of this building on 13th St.; they spent good money to tear down that building that was useful (and relatively new), for the sole idea that THAT building had to be razed as part of their overly ambitious plans. Poor judgment, poor planning on Mt. Sinai's part.

Older Historian said...

I've walked past that building just about my entire life. (70 years). I've always found it enchanting, mysterious and oddly serious. (well it is a hospital) it simply needs a little TLC, and it should continue to grave that corner for years to come. I'm not against a balance of the oldand the new - but that building has solidity and purpose - let it live!!!

Anonymous said...

JAMES needs the services of this institution or, at least, the eye people.

Btw, I had a flare-up of uveitis in the '90s and these folk saved my vision with steroidal eye drops. Thank you, thank you, thank you

Anonymous said...

On the fence about the beauty of the building. We should have saved the building on the corner of 11 th that had individual drs on each floor in the end. (Mostly therapists) now that was an interesting building.

Anonymous said...

Btw, the Elizabeth Blackwell infirmary, first hospital run entirely by women is now stupid yuppie condos above Stuyvesant Square. Now that’s more interesting. Mt Sini is a much better hospital than the previous hospital in the location. Hopefully they will hire an architect that doesn’t suck. Oh, the theater where mystery lot was located, much more interesting.

Brian Van said...

At the moment, with so many neighbors suffering from high rents and homelessness, it's seems particularly stupid and cruel to make a plea to save an outmoded building without any stated purpose, buyer, or caretaker for it, as if this sort of thing is not giving up a fair amount of efficiencies and capacity.

That said, it is a better looking building than many that Village Preservation has recently begged to save. But at some point, we have to take responsibility for the effects of constantly taking buildings on prime corners and attempting to preserve them in amber. Most of the area south of here is a landmark district, unable to add avenue-adjacent capacity like the area directly northward. Maybe it makes sense to save the corner, assemble some air rights, apply generous zoning and build a 300-unit affordable residential tower mid-block here, with the older building serving as a lobby and small office complex? Oh, right. We can't. We'd be losing character.

Neighbor said...

Brian Van is so spot on. Exactly the point I was making but said more eloquently. We can't just freeze the city in time if we want any modicum of affordability.

Anonymous said...

I've been a patient at the eye hospital for 20 years and can say the inside has absolutely zero historical aesthetic. It's been renovated so many times, the inside looks like any other institution, only dingier. The part worth preserving is the facade. It would be nice if that could be worked into any new design. However, seeing how architects over the last several years seem to be graduates of Cardboard Box Design School, I don't have much confidence in any creative ideas prevailing.