New York, NY—The New York Blood Center has big ambitions to build a brand-new campus with a 16-story building to replace its current home on East 67th Street. But some long-time residents are opposed to the project, with one of them saying that the massive redevelopment poses an existential threat to the quality of life on the Upper East Side.
The residents had a chance to weigh in on the issue during a recent Zoom meeting with Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), who represents the district. The Councilman heard from approximately 10 residents, who each expressed different reasons why they are opposed to the proposed 600,000-square foot campus.
For example, Adam Kaye lives at 301 East 66th Street on the 14th Floor facing east, and he expressed astonishment that his open-air views will be compromised.
“I’m an owner, this is something that we extensively looked into what the zoning was, what the maximum height was in the area before we bought, and never in a million years did we think that someone would build such an egregious monstrosity on a block on the Upper East Side,” said Kaye.
He also expressed concern about the obstruction of sunlight to nearby St. Catherine’s Park, saying that part of the reason why he and his wife purchased their property was so that his two children could have access to an open-air park with plenty of sunlight.
“I can’t understand how any council member or any zoning person will allow something like that to happen in a playground that is so vital to the neighborhood; it’s the only open-air park space that we have. The core question is, what can be done to stop it,” Kaye said.
Paul Graziano was just hired by the co-op board at 301 East 66th Street to be its planning, zoning and land use consultant in response to the Blood Center’s proposal. He noted that there has never been a violation or a request for a rezoning within any R8B zone (a high-density residential zoning district found mostly in Manhattan on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side) since the adoption of the R8B zone on the UES in 1985.
In fact, he said, the adoption of additional R8B zones in Manhattan seemed to indicate that it was a long-standing position by the city and elected officials to protect mid-block areas.
“This precedent would open the door not just for creating a disaster on this block, which is clear from the proposal, but I think it opens the door to this happening everywhere else. And, unlike the statement [by the city] that this is an exception, that this is the only site where this could happen, that is not true,” said Graziano.
Perhaps the most vociferous opposition came from Marty Bell, who lives at 315 East 68th Street. While saying that the project represents an existential crisis to the quality of life on the UES, he channeled his frustration towards Councilman Ben Kallos, whom Bell said isn’t doing enough to stop the project.
“The way all you ever talked about was sort of wishy-washy about St. Catherine’s [Park]…this building, you should be screaming from the ramparts to stop this building,” said Bell.
Bell continued by saying that he felt that the Blood Center wouldn’t be going ahead with the project unless “they felt they had you in their pocket.”
That prompted Kallos to calmly reply that he appreciated Bell’s remarks, but they weren’t accurate.
“I understand why you could come to the conclusions you have come to, but I will say that nothing could be further from the truth,” said Kallos.
Kallos then noted that the New York Blood Center isn’t even seeking input from elected leaders.
“This is not something that I can just simply come out and say I am against and the project [stops]. They are choosing to move forward without support from any local elected officials,” said Kallos.
“At this point, whether you support or oppose, or you have changes to the proposal, it’s going to be something that you are going to have to fight for.”
The city is in favor of the project because, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration views public health and the life-science industry as the cornerstone of the city’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
In addition, the New York Blood Center says it needs the new campus to add more space for its research and to expand the number of companies it incubates in its offices.