Today the Landmarks Preservation Commission is holding a public hearing to consider the largest proposal in its 43-year history: An application by the St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center to demolish eight structures in Greenwich Village on West 11th and 12th Streets, near Seventh Avenue, and construct an $800 million, 21-story, 329-foot-tall hospital and condominium tower. Falling to the wrecking ball would be the 1963 O’Toole Building which houses the hospital. The plans are strongly opposed by local residents, The Municipal Art Society, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff:

It’s historical censorship. The O’Toole Building was one of the first buildings in the city to break with the Modernist mainstream as it was congealing into formulaic dogma… It represents a moment when some architects rebelled against Modernism’s glass-box aesthetic in favor of ornamental facades… In patronizing fashion, hospital officials have suggested that preservationists are choosing buildings over lives, as if the two were in direct opposition. This is the kind of developer’s cant that is ruining our city. The addition of up to 400 co-op apartments is about money, not saving lives. There are plenty of other ways that the hospital could upgrade its facilities.

Indeed, Henry J. Amoroso, the president of St. Vincent’s, tells the Times that “only the value of the real estate we have today will fund the ability to build a new hospital.” As outlined in the proposal, the current buildings and the land they occupy would be sold to Rudin Management for $301 million, which would be used to finance the new hospital and pay off debt. The hospital first needs approval from Landmarks, then from the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

If the project moves forward, St. Vincents would construct the new hospital across the street from its current location and relocate there in 2015, at which point the O’Toole building and others would be razed to make way for the residential tower and a row of townhouses.