STATEMENT: Council Member Kallos on New York Blood Center Rezoning.
During my time in office, I have been proud to support the expansion of the life-science sector in my district.
I negotiated a 3 city block expansion of the Rockefeller University campus over the FDR Drive which has resulted in $50 million investment in a crumbling waterfront. I also helped secure $9 million to open a new biotech incubator we first thought of back on New Years Day 2014. I cut the ribbon on the Cornell Tech campus, the Belfer Research Building. We opened a new Memorial Sloan Kettering vertical campus on 74th Street, are expanding HSS over the FDR with a new 30-story medical tower on 79th Street and 1st Avenue, and a newly announced hospital building on 74th Street. Just to name a few and that’s not an exhaustive list. Each project involved working closely with the community whether as-of-right or through a discretionary process.
From the beginning of this process, we have agreed that we have an important opportunity to update and upgrade the New York Blood Center so it can continue to be a vital asset to our city. I have believed that the best way to achieve this vision would be through a significantly modified building from the Commercial Office Tower that the Blood Center proposed.
The developers made the unprecedented choice to skip working with the local community board, elected officials, and instead put all their efforts into overturning “member deference” now and forever.
This is the first rezoning where no changes were made at the Community Board or for the Borough President. The first change was offered at the first and only Zoning hearing just last month where more than one hundred residents came out in opposition, along with every single elected official Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright.
After more than five separate requests, the developer finally came to the table this Monday. Only after skipping a meeting in the afternoon, did they show up to meet in the evening. We had two more meetings on Tuesday evening. In a Council where land-use projects are often negotiated to the last moment, the developer once again refused to negotiate. We had more conversations in 36 hours than we did in the preceding 36 months.
We came close to a win-win for both sides, but we haven’t gotten there. There remain modest changes to this building, moving a 30-foot mechanical void to the roof, lowering extra luxury 20-foot ceiling heights to something more reasonable, and a contextual height limit to protect against a 500-foot tower that can now be built as-of-right, all of which would have zero programmatic impact on the Blood Center and its partners while getting us to a building that would work for my constituents.
Ultimately, these remaining changes were rejected, and I have to vote “no” on this proposal.
Today’s outcome sets a troubling precedent for council members’ ability to win for the city and their constituents. With today’s vote, we become a City where real estate developers are only emboldened to sidestep the concerns of the communities in which they build.
The longstanding tradition of “member deference,” has been in place to give New Yorkers in 51 council districts across 5 boroughs a voice at the table with the developers who seek to reshape their neighborhoods.
Thanks to a rarely invoked Charter 200(a)(3) protest filed by buildings included in this spot zoning, when this project comes to a vote of the full council, it will require a ¾ supermajority to pass. I urge my colleagues to consider the precedent we are setting and vote with their conscience. As I have said before, and I will say again, no matter the outcome of the vote, we will work with the Blood Center to build a new modern facility.