Rockefeller University and Council Member Ben Kallos Announce a Series of Community Improvements


Rockefeller University and Council Member Ben Kallos Announce a Series of Community Improvements

City Council Votes to Approve New Laboratory Building at The Rockefeller University


New York, New York (May 14, 2014) – After key community improvements negotiated between Council Member Ben Kallos and The Rockefeller University, the City Council voted today to approve the university’s proposal for a new laboratory building over the FDR Drive. Rockefeller University and Council Member Ben Kallos, in whose Upper East Side district the project will be built, announced the improvements at the vote:


·      An $8 million investment in the East River Esplanade adjacent to the university’s campus to mitigate impacts of the project identified in the Environmental Impact Statement. The investment includes repairs to the seawall that supports the Esplanade and new landscaping and other amenities that will improve the Esplanade itself.

·      A $1 million endowment established by the University to provide funding in perpetuity for maintenance of the Esplanade adjacent to the campus. Collaborative negotiations leading up to the City Council’s review led the university to increase its commitment to the Esplanade’s ongoing maintenance from an original period of two years, to more than a decade, and finally, in negotiation with Council Member Ben Kallos, to the establishment of a perpetual endowment.

·      A 20 percent increase in programmed public scientific, educational and/or artistic events — to a total of over 200 hours per year — on the university’s campus, to which members of the community will be welcomed. The increase in events, secured by Council Member Ben Kallos, will include the expansion of current programs as well as experimentation with new programs, including weekend programming.

·      A contribution of $150,000 to the Friends of the East River Esplanade, a conservancy devoted to encouraging the restoration and renovation of the full length of the esplanade from 60th to 120th Streets, as well as an officer of the university to serve of the conservancy’s board of directors if elected, an agreement worked out between Council Member Ben Kallos and Rockefeller University;

·      An eco-friendly “green” noise barrier between the FDR Drive and the Esplanade adjacent to the university’s campus, should it prove feasible. The University’s original plans called for a five-foot noise barrier, which was increased to eight feet at the request of the Community Board. The University agreed to study the option of a green noise barrier at the request of Council Member Kallos.



The Community Board approved the project on January 9, 2014; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer approved the project on February 12, 2014; and the City Planning Commission approved the project on April 2, 2014. With the City Council’s approval today, this represents the final needed stage in the ULURP application process to expand. During the April Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, Council Member Kallos raised key community concerns, including overcrowding and strain on the Esplanade infrastructure, but was convinced over the course of their interactions that Rockefeller would mitigate those concerns with community improvements.


The University’s new building will contain some 108,000 square feet of flexible, open-plan biomedical lab space as well as 21,500 square feet of common space on two floors. It will feature a landscaped green roof connected to the existing campus, a conference facility to accommodate meetings of up to 200 people, and a cafeteria. The new lab space will serve as a replacement for existing lab facilities that are reaching the end of their operational life and are no longer suitable for modern science. The building, designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, is expected to be completed in 2019.


“The Rockefeller University is pleased to incorporate investments in our neighborhood into the plans for our new laboratory building, which is critical to the university’s ability to attract top scientific talent and to sustain our mission of conducting cutting-edge biomedical research,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Rockefeller’s President. “In partnership with Council Member Kallos, Friends of the East River Esplanade, and the City of New York, we look forward to realizing a revitalized waterfront, including ensuring that funds are available to sustain it over the long term. We are also excited about enhancing our public outreach activities to better include the community.”


“This section of the esplanade is long overdue for improvement, and the plans we have developed in collaboration with the community call for it to be made structurally sound, and to incorporate new amenities including a noise barrier, a designated bike lane, water fountains, and enhanced landscaping and seating,” says George Candler, Rockefeller’s Associate Vice President for Planning and Construction. “Although this will be an important amenity for the neighborhood in its own right, we also hope it will serve as a model for what could be done on other sections of the esplanade in the future.”


Ben Kallos said, “These commitments from Rockefeller will transform our East River Esplanade, and in turn, our neighborhood. These commitments will contribute to a more sustainable New York City. Working together, and without the lobbyists typical of this process, we’ve ensured that new development assists our local residents. This cooperative paradigm represents negotiations that are more like collaborations for the good of the neighborhood for benefits that will last far into the future.”


“This university expansion will ensure Rockefeller’s long-term stature as a premiere research institution while providing much-needed improvements to one of the only public open spaces in the area,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.