By Paul Hicks
It has been nearly eighteen years since residents of Rye and neighboring communities were shocked by the news that United Hospital had filed for bankruptcy and was officially closing its doors on December 31, 2004. An article in the New York Times at the time captured the widespread feeling in its headline: “Community Reels Over Plan to Close Its Only Hospital.”
United’s history dated back to 1889 when a group of 14 women formed the Ladies Hospital Association to “serve humanity, save lives and relieve suffering.” From the proceeds of bake sales and “fetes” it was able to open a two-bed facility that year in rented rooms on the second floor of Scott’s Dry Goods Store in Port Chester.
Expansion of the hospital occurred in stages as the board and administrators tried to keep pace with increasing demand without falling victim to over-capacity. In 1921, an article in the Modern Hospital journal described the addition of two large wings to the original building. A separate building housed nurses and students at the hospital’s nursing school (which later closed but reopened in 1962).
The first major gift was a bequest of $50,000 to the hospital in 1913 under the will of William Macy (equal to roughly $1.5 million today). In addition to a number of large individual donations, millions of dollars were raised over the years through the Twig organization.
By the 1960s, there were 37 Twig groups devoted to United Hospital with 650 members drawn from Rye, Harrison, Port Chester, and Mamaroneck. The numerous successful Twig fund-raising projects included an Antique Shop, Nearly New Shop, Thrift Shop, and the hospital gift shop as well as the Holiday Fair, musical reviews called “the Follies”, and fashion shows.
The largest source of funds was an annual golf tournament that the Twigs began in 1954 as a pro-am event at Apawamis Club. After the tournament was moved to Westchester Country Club in 1963, it became a popular stop on the PGA Tour, generally known as the Westchester Classic. Even though a number of hospitals in the county received shares of the proceeds, United Hospital remained the primary beneficiary.
Increasing pressure from managed care companies to cut costs and achieve efficiencies caused many hospitals to enter into affiliations in Westchester and elsewhere in the New York Metropolitan region. In the early 1990s, United formed an alliance with New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, which subsequently merged with Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
Nonetheless, United continued to post operating losses every year from 1990, with annual deficits in the range of $10 million in the years just prior to its closing in 2004. Starwood Capital Management, which bought the bankrupt hospital property in 2006, announced plans for redevelopment of the United Hospital site in 2010. It proposed a $450 million mixed-use development, containing a hotel, restaurant, apartments, and offices.
Starwood and Port Chester were not able to agree on zoning, traffic, taxes, and other issues until 2017. At that time, Starwood announced that the proposed development would generate $60 million in revenue for the village, contribute approximately $2 million annually to Port Chester schools, and create nearly 3,000 jobs.
No demolition of the ugly and dangerous buildings was begun, however, and only fifteen months later Starwood announced it was selling the property. In July 2019, it was bought by two real estate investment firms, Rose Associates and BedRock Real Estate Partners of New York City.
In a statement to the media on May 10, 2022, Michael Adamo, managing director of development for Rose Associates, said he hoped demolition work could occur on the site near the end of this year.
The proposed mixed-use development includes 775 multi-family housing units with .5-acre green space, 200 age-restricted units, a 120-key hotel, and 19,159 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Multi-family housing would include 144 efficiency/studio units, 416 one-bedroom units, and 215 two-bedroom units. There will be parking for 1,020 vehicles.
Additionally, the project proposes a number of critical changes to address potential traffic issues along Boston Post Road, High Street, and the I-287 exit ramp to Boston Post Road, which is already heavily congested.
Rye City Manager Greg Usry said he was following the project’s status closely. He was confident that Rye would receive prior notice of any demolition at the site. “I have a very good working relationship with Stuart Rabin [Village Manager], with whom I speak on a regular basis,” said Usry. “
Usry also said that a developers’ representative is scheduled to make a presentation to the City Council at its October 26 meeting.