A Hurricane-Resistant Hospital Is Coming to Coney Island

New York City is about to cut the ribbon on a new $923 million public hospital building, not far from the beach in Coney Island, that is designed to be practically flood-proof and that promises to elevate the level of health care for hundreds of thousands of people in South Brooklyn.

The new Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital building, which opens Tuesday, was born out of a crisis.

During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Coney Island Hospital, the former name of the campus where the new building is, flooded. Seawater poured into the emergency room. A turtle washed up in the I.T. department. Some 370 patients were evacuated.

When it came time to restore the facility, city hospital leaders convinced the Federal Emergency Management Agency that constructing a new building would cost the same as repairing and retrofitting the old one. With nearly $1 billion from the agency, the city’s public hospital system was able to construct a fortress, designed to withstand even a once-in-a-century flood.

A four-foot-tall barrier wall rings most of the hospital campus. Self-rising or sliding barriers can be closed at all entrances. The mechanical systems, including two generators as large as freight train engines, are housed on the new building’s fifth floor. The emergency room, painted a calming shade of blue, is on the second floor, above the worst flood projections, with double the space of the old one.

The biggest upgrade is for the hospital’s dozens of behavioral health patients. They will move from a 1910 building that will now be demolished to the top floors of the new 11-story tower, where they will have sweeping views and a dedicated outdoor space.

A bronze statue of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presides over the new lobby. The building, which broke ground in 2018, was named for her in 2022 to honor her commitment to equity and justice, said Svetlana Lipyanskaya, the chief executive of NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health.

“When I say we’re an anchor in this community, we literally built a fort,” she said.

The updated systems and design are expected to improve the experience of patients at a facility that last received a one-star-out- of-five ranking from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In the old main building, some rooms housed four patients each, making infection control more difficult. The new building, which will be just one of several facilities for patients on the South Brooklyn Health campus, has 80 single rooms, with pullout couches for relatives to spend the night.

“We didn’t want to look like a city hospital,” said Daniel Collins, the senior associate director of facilities at the South Brooklyn Health campus. “We wanted to look like a hospital. And I think they achieved it very well.”