This renovation is old news, but it was new to me. In the late 19th Century, a spectacular new hospital was built on St. Marks Place between Rochester and Buffalo by the Diocese of Brooklyn. St. Mary's was founded under the guidance of builder-Bishop John Loughlin in 1867 in Cobble Hill (Loughlin also oversaw the founding and building of St. John's College and the unfinished cathedral that became St. John the Baptist in Bed-Stuy), but it quickly outgrew its surroundings, and construction began in Crown Heights in 1879. The block-long complex included a nursing school, Shevlin Hall, whose buildings were spared when the original hospital was replaced with a more modern building in the 1970s (pictured above).
Still called St. Mary's, this hospital served Crown Heights until 2005, when its bankrupt parent, St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, was forced to close it on account of declining patient numbers. The sad irony is that this neighborhood institution, whose closing occasioned a lengthy retrospective in the NYTimes and put hundreds of residents out of work, was done in by trends which are typically harbingers of positive neighborhood change, specifically reduced gun crime and a reduction in AIDS-related cases.
What's left now is a huge, vaguely brutalist concrete hospital building that seems likely to be demolished (unless it is re-opened as a hospital soon, and there are no plans to do that) and Shevlin Hall, the stately nursing quarters. The Hall garnered considerable attention from the other end of Crown Heights in 2005, when Bruce Ratner considered purchasing it to move affordable housing units required by the state for his Atlantic Yards project off-site. The building is currently under construction for residential use, potentially assisted living, and it looks as though Shevlin Hall will outlive not one but two hospital buildings, not to mention the hospital itself.
On an unrelated note, I hope Mayor Bloomberg views his close victory as evidence of the considerable damage he did to New Yorkers' trust with his term limits extension, and not as a lesson in the power of wealth to buy nearly anything.