medical Center in UES Mansion ceases operations

| 19 Jul 2016 | 10:47

The Center for Specialty Care, a freestanding ambulatory surgical facility on East 69th Street, terminated its operations in May and closed its medical offices permanently on June 30. The outpatient clinic served over 5,000 patients a year and housed over 150 physicians in a unique mansion, offering a wide variety of medical procedures and specializing in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

The Center and its owners, the Smith family, declined to officially comment on the closure, but a spokesperson said the building “is not on the market yet.”

Massey Knakal Capital Services valued the five-story building at approximately $40 million on the residential market in 2012, and it would likely fetch an even higher price if sold today.

Dr. Charles Maltz, a professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell who formerly worked at the Center, said that the owners had previously attempted a private sale, and that he had spoken to a doctor who considered purchasing the facility.

“In terms of selling the whole thing to someone else, they had somebody, but I guess the deal fell through,” he said.

Maltz added that the closure was surprising, if not particularly monumental.

“They decided rather abruptly to close it, with only a few weeks notice,” he said. “People will find other places, I don’t think it’s going to have much of an impact.”

Adam E. Zeidel, CEO of real estate development firm Coconut Properties, noted the building’s specificity and corresponding high value, which was likely not being maximized as an outpatient clinic.

“[This kind of building] is very rare, so if you have a type of use that can benefit from this type of aesthetic, there are very few buildings with this kind of opportunity,” he said. “There is a relatively smaller set of people who would bid on this kind of thing, but those people would be willing to bid a lot for it.”

The building most likely cannot undergo significant structural changes since it’s in a historical district, but Zeidel suggested the mansion could possibly be converted into an art gallery restaurant, or boutique as well as residential use.

The Center was singular in its combination of hospital-quality care and a luxurious, elegant building. Dr. Barry M. Weintraub, a renowned plastic surgeon, worked there for over two decades. He left four years ago to open his own plastic-surgical facility, which he said was inspired the Center’s luxury and quality. After the recent closure, he noted an influx of physicians and patients to his establishment.

“Quite a number of plastic surgeons who were previously operating at the Center for Specialty Care are now operating at my facility on the Upper East Side. The news of the closing was rather sudden, and has affected quite a number of surgeons who, from my understanding, quickly needed to find another elegant facility in which to operate,” he said.

While some surgeons who previously operated there will likely move to hospitals, “for certain patients who require a hospital-grade facility that is much more private and elegant, there are fewer options. There aren’t many facilities in New York City like the Center for Specialty Care,” he said.

Dr. James W. Smith, a noted plastic and reconstructive surgeon, founded the clinic in 1985. It was created to offer outpatient surgical care without the inconveniences of overcrowded operating rooms in other city hospitals.

The building, at 50 East 69th St., is a 20,000-square-foot townhouse built in 1918 by renowned architect Henry C. Pelton, who was also the architect for New York’s Riverside Church and The Cloisters. The building was designed for Otto Dommerich’s family, who lived there until 1943, when they sold the building to the Henry George School of Social Science. The school then inhabited the mansion until it was sold to Smith in 1979 to become the Center for Specialty Care.

Tom Miller, a historian who runs an architecture blog “Daytonian In Manhattan,” described 50 East 69th St. as “a neo-French Classic beauty that could easily hold its own with the palaces of Fifth Avenue.”

Dr. Paul S. Striker, a prominent plastic surgeon who was a full-time tenant at the Center and worked there up until its closure, lauded its services.

“I had hospital privileges also, but the ambulatory center was very important to my practices for the years up until its closing,” he said. “Working there was a great experience for me and I’m very sorry to see it stop serving the public and my patients.”

While the shuttering may have some as a surprise, according to Zeidel, this kind of occurrence is commonplace.

“It is not at all unusual. New York is a city of constant change and reinvention. People who own properties for a particular purpose, their business changes or the need for what they do changes, and they have a real estate asset, and when it’s time to close down their business, they want to monetize their asset.”