New York, NY—The opposition to the New York Blood Center’s proposal to build a massive 16-story, 600,000-square foot campus on the Upper East Side is growing, as the Zoning and Development Committee of Community Board 8 voted yesterday by a margin of 16-1 to oppose the project.
First the committee heard presentations from several speakers before they voted. First up was Marty Bell, who during a Zoom meeting with Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) last week made quite clear that he is opposed to the project. He believes that the Blood Center can easily build a new building within its existing footprint compared to building a new 16-story tower whereby it will only occupy the first five floors.
“Their city filings show that they can build as-of-right within the zoning a new building that will give them actually more space than they say they need in a 334-foot tall tower,” said Bell.
He also pointed out that the Blood Center isn’t asking for just a slight variance in the zoning, but is seeking a significant upzoning of the property.
“What they are asking for is approximately 450 percent more than this site is zoned for [75 feet is the current height limit for the R8B zone]. This project would do tremendous, irrevocable damage to the neighborhood. We cannot allow that to happen,” Bell said.
Paul Graziano was recently retained as the planning, land use and zoning consultant for the co-op board at 301 East 66th Street in response to the Blood Center’s proposal. He noted that since the R8B zone was adopted on the Upper East Side in 1985, as well in other areas of Manhattan, there has never been a case where the R8B has been upzoned.
“If a precedent is set with this, other developers will use it as justification to pursue similar actions,” Graziano said.
Finally, Erica Doyle, the principal of Vanguard High School, which is part of the Julia Richman Education Complex on E 67th Street, said she was there to represent all the principals of all the school communities at the complex to say that they are not in support of the Blood Center’s expansion.
“The Blood Center did not learn from its resounding defeat by our neighbors and supporters when they attempted to take over our building in 2016,” said Doyle.
“Four years later, they now propose an attempt to mislead again by proposing a construction project of a scale and impact that would harm Julia Richman just as surely as those 2016 demolition crews.”
The public then had a chance to present their views in favor or against the project. The majority of the public voiced their opposition, but Paul Caine, who is a resident and unit owner on E 77th Street, about 10 blocks north of the proposed project, welcomes the proposal.
“When I look at this project, I think about 2,600 people patronizing our businesses, buying our apartments and activating the street life,” said Caine.
Elizabeth Rose, a member of the community board’s Zoning and Development Committee, then made a motion to pass a resolution to disapprove the Blood Center’s proposal for zoning changes to its property.
The motion was quickly seconded.
Committee member Valerie Mason then noted that the board isn’t against development, but that the Blood Center should be considering other parts of the city that aren’t nearly as densely populated as the Upper East Side.
“There are [other] sites advocated by the city itself to promote the life-science industry and to create jobs in areas that are underdeveloped…. This board has to step forward and do what we can to show that we support our community and our zoning law,” said Mason.
The community board will take up the resolution at its next full board meeting, which occurs next Wednesday, December 16 at 6:30 pm.