Here’s what the new Brooklyn health center will look like

Hotel Voice — November 17, 2014

The Brooklyn Health Center has taken shape on paper, with a groundbreaking on the actual construction estimated for 2015 and a full opening in 2016.

While the shovels have not yet been placed in the ground, the ongoing planning phase is extremely important, as the Union, the Hotel Association and the Benefit Funds that they jointly administer intend to make it the best health facility anywhere in the country. That’s why it can honestly be said that the actual building of the new Brooklyn Health Center is almost easy compared to all the hard work that has been involved in the pre-construction phase.

First, of course, a suitable location had to be found. It took some serious, time-consuming activity by representatives of the Union, the hotel industry and the Benefit Funds Office, but in the end it would be difficult if not impossible to find a better location in the Borough of Brooklyn for the newest and most modern Health Center. The site was purchased by the Benefit Funds for $19 million.

As most members know by now, the new Brooklyn Health Center will be located at 620 Fulton St., just two blocks from Flatbush Avenue, and a short walk from the Long Island Railroad’s Atlantic Avenue terminal and the Barclay’s Center. The LIRR terminal is also the home for a number of subway lines. In fact, the new Brooklyn Health Center will be five or fewer blocks from subway stations on the following lines: A, C, G, N, R, Q, B, D, F, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Buses that stop within one block of the site are the B25, B26, B38 and B52.

“We had always said that location would be a top priority in determining where to build the new Brooklyn Health Center,” Hotel Trades Council President Ward said. “We clearly have met that goal with this site.”

Another difficult step in the planning phase was applying for and obtaining all the permits necessary to build this splendid facility. This process was more difficult than usual because of the new health center’s close proximity to transit hubs. It sits atop several major subway lines and the planners had to work carefully to obtain the necessary permits and clearances from the MTA. In addition, because the facility’s location is in an upscale neighborhood that has been declared a cultural district, approvals from several other agencies were necessary.

Only after these hurdles were cleared could the actual planning of the facility begin. Of course, contractors and an architect had to be chosen, too.

The architectural company chosen for the design of the new Health Center was Francis Cauffman, one of the top 25 design firms in the country, according to Modern Healthcare magazine. This is a firm that is committed to the effective development and delivery of innovative health facilities. The company’s recent projects include St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, Geisinger Health System’s critical care building and the Hospital for Special Surgery’s ambulatory care facility.

An equally prestigious company, Skanska USA, was chosen to build the new Brooklyn Health Center.

Headquartered in New York, Skanska USA is one of the largest and most financially sound construction and development companies in the country. Skanskas USA has expertise in construction, public-private partnerships and commercial development initiatives. It is the company that built Met Life Stadium, where the Giants and Jets play and where the 2014 Super Bowl took place earlier this year.

The new Brooklyn Health Center will be built with union labor, of course, and, as we noted, groundbreaking is scheduled for 2015.
Among other facts that members will find interesting are these:

● The Brooklyn Health Center will be 50% larger than the Harlem Health Center.

● The dental offices in the new Brooklyn Health Center will have more than 20 chairs.

● The pharmacy will be four times larger than the current pharmacy in Brooklyn.

There’s more. The new Brooklyn Health Center’s design is not only incorporating the most modern and futuristic elements of health care, it is based in part on actual suggestions made by Hotel Trades Council members and their families. The Benefit Funds conducted focus groups in 2013 consisting of patients from all four current Health Centers. Valuable information was gathered from these groups and the ideas they generated are to be included in the finished product.

The new Brooklyn Health Center will be housed in a 12-story, 180,000 square-foot mixed-use building. At least five floors at the building will be used for the actual Health Center—that’s 65,000 square feet—with the rest of the facility used for office and retail space, which will help offset the estimated $120 million cost of the project. It is projected that there will be 70,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square feet for retail space, with dining facilities on the ground level along with outdoor public space. There will even be terraces on a sixth-floor setback and on the roof. Across the street from the new Brooklyn Health Center will be a beautiful refurbished park.

When it opens in 2016 the new Brooklyn Health Center will focus on wellness. It will feature collaboration between staff members that will mean the highest quality and most efficient service to members and their families.

“Both the interior and the exterior of the new Brooklyn Health Center will be inviting,” Benefit Funds Chief Executive Officer Dr. Robert Greenspan says. “Patients will not only be empowered to take an active role in their own healthcare but inspired to do so.”
Greenspan told Hotel Voice that in designing the Health Center changes in technology were strongly considered.

“Our new building needs to provide a technology-ready infrastructure and yet be flexible enough so that we are not tied to a solution that is outdated in a few years,” he said.

It is obvious from what is reported here that an enormous amount of work has already taken place in the building the new Brooklyn Health Center. The last component of building a facility of this magnitude is the estimated cost.

As we said earlier in this article, it is estimated that the cost of the new Brooklyn Health Center will be $120 million. One way of financing this cost was the subject of a tentative agreement between the Union and the Hotel Association reported in Hotel Voice in a special edition on June 10, 2014 and then again in the next regular edition of this publication, on June 16, 2014.

Under the terms of the agreement, the current industry-wide agreement would be extended for an additional five years, from its current expiration date of June 30, 2019 until July 1, 2024. The agreement would call for the Pension Fund to own the property and build the Brooklyn Health Center. Because of the strong resurgence of this area of Brooklyn and the borough of Brooklyn in general, this would be an outstanding investment for the Pension Fund and its participants, especially with the income that would be generated from all the office and retail space that will be included in the building. The agreement also calls for wages for non-tipped employees to increase by one dollar ($1.00) per hour each year of the extended contract (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023), and for wages of tipped employees to increase fifty cents (50¢) per hour each of those years as well. All other wage-related items will increase every year for all job classifications based on the percentages of these increases.

The U.S. Department of Labor, whose approval is necessary for the Pension Fund to own the Brooklyn Health Center, is studying the proposal and should issue a decision in the near future. If the Department of Labor approves this proposal, the Hotel Trades Council’s general membership would then have a ratification vote to approve the contract extension. The Hotel Association’s executive council has already voted to approve the agreement.

As Peter Ward said back in June, if this renewal agreement becomes a reality, it will mean that those of our members covered by the Industry-Wide contract will enjoy an unprecedented security in their wages, benefits and working conditions for the next ten (10) years.

It is important to remember that while the land is purchased and the design of the Brooklyn Health Center is complete, there is only a tentative agreement regarding the extension of the contract. It awaits the approval of the U.S. Department of Labor, after which members will participate in a ratification vote to approve the extension.

In the short time since the land was purchased for the new Brooklyn Health Center real estate values have risen dramatically, making the innovative proposal to have the Pension Fund own the facility a huge winner on several fronts. If all the pieces fall into place, members will have the best healthcare facility in the country located very close to 13 subway lines, four bus lines and the LIRR, the Pension Fund will have an outstanding investment, and members who are covered by the Industry-Wide Agreement will have an unprecedented 10 years of guaranteed wages, benefits and work conditions through the extension of the current contract. The next step in the process is for the Department of Labor (DOL) to complete its study of the proposal and issue its decision, an action that is expected in the near future.

This is an artist’s rendition of the new Brooklyn Health Center designed by Fancis Cauffman