NURSING HOME BATTLE INTENSIFIES; HEARINGS SET FOR THIS WEEK

jewish home rendering2
The most recent rendering of the proposed nursing home, via Jewish Home Lifecare. An earlier rendering is below.

Hearings are set for this week over a 20-story nursing home set to rise on West 97th street.

Jewish Home Lifecare, a nursing and rehab center now on 106th street, swapped land with a developer so that it could move to 97th and build a 20-story nursing home with space for 264 seniors and another 150 beds for short-term rehab. But parents of students at PS 163 and residents of Park West Village are fighting to stop the nursing home from being built. Hearings about an environmental review of the site will take place Wednesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium at PS 163 at 163 West 97th Street (between Amsterdam & Columbus Avenues). There will also be a rally at the school on Thursday at 8:10 a.m.

The battle has played out over a state environmental study that will determine what rules the nursing home will have to follow when it starts construction, which is slated for later this year. Opponents and local politicians would like the project to be halted once and for all. Among the problems they point to are the site’s high levels of lead and other toxins, which will be released during excavation, and the influx of traffic.

jhl new building“I am opposed to the project in its entirety. I believe that given the grave concerns raised about the proposal in the past few months, another hearing is absolutely necessary for all concerned residents to have an opportunity to comment on the project,” Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell told us recently.

O’Donnell said it will be difficult to stop the project, because it’s being built “as-of-right,” meaning it does not need special approval from the city planning commission.

The state study, using some data from consultants paid by Jewish Home, was lacking because it downplayed the levels of lead and other harmful materials found in the soil (including arsenic and mercury), opponents claim. The full 325-page study can be accessed here.

“The DEIS report advises that according to various standards the lead that was found there in its totality is nothing to be alarmed about, and bends the application of these mostly outdated standards to justify construction, not withstanding the damage to our health that this will cause to our community,” wrote Martin Rosenblatt, a local resident who has been keeping close tabs on the project.

Residents have created a site called NoJHLatPWV.com to fight against the construction. (The nursing home project and other redevelopment have landed Park West Village tenants in court with the building owners over parking lots. The owners recently paved over one of the last green spaces in the development.) “The potential nursing home is to be built on top of one of the last vestiges of open space in our hood,” wrote Dean Dacian.

Parents at PS 163 have also created a website and a petition, and say that the health concerns make the project inappropriate for the site; they think it should be constructed back on 106th, where it was initially envisioned. They also created the video that we’ve posted below.

“We are not against construction in general, so please do not dismiss our concerns as merely a not-in-my-backyard issue. This is a safety and health issue first and foremost. The casual safety assurances of a developer are not going to protect the children of P.S. 163,” the petition says.

Ethan Geto, a spokesman for Jewish Home, says that “this project will be monitored by a variety of City and State agencies, and will adhere to their stringent requirements for public safety and health measures.” It includes “a number of measures that exceed minimum requirements,” he added.

“Jewish Home Lifecare’s highest priority during the construction of the planned new skilled nursing facility on 97th Street will be ensuring the health and safety of students and faculty of P.S. 163. From the very beginning of our planning process at 97th Street we have instructed our construction and design teams to develop measures that both protect the school community during every stage of construction while striving to cause the least disruption possible. We have been engaged in ongoing, constructive meetings and conversations with administrators and parents of P.S. 163 over the past year to listen to and address their concerns as we move toward construction.”

Geto said that some of the excavation is expected to occur while school is in session.

“Excavation is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of this year. Some excavation and construction activities will occur when school is in session, although we will try to undertake certain activities when the school is unoccupied. The overall construction process is expected to be completed within 30 months.”

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 24 comments | permalink
    1. Pedestrian says:

      Do developers really think people are this stupid? They are going to do the excavation when the kids aren’t at a school? How will they clean the are around the building or the toxic dust the falls in the sidewalks and the schools interiors. Will they be steam cleaning the school or excavating with negative vacuum equipped back hoes? By the way if these toxins are dangerous to little humans ow about the big humans who live in the area and those little humans who live there too when they are not in school? This is such an insult. Why not just say we are going to do this and we don’t care.

      I am waiting to hear the developers say that the nursing home idea just isn’t going to work and we need to just put in apartments. It is not as crazy as it sounds.

      • webot says:

        Yes! another blame the developer comment! another winner winner chicken dinner!

        rule one, its the evil developer.

        rule two, see rule one

    2. Batya Lewton says:

      Once again, Westsiderag.com. has covered a very important issue. Thank you for a clear concise article. I clicked on the petition and signed it. The video is really amazing. I urge everyone who reads the article to sign the petition and to go to the website listed for more information.
      Batya

    3. unconvinced parent of ps163 students says:

      As a parent of two P.S. 163 students and an active member of the task force charged with keeping our school safe, I call on JHL to make public the specific reasons why JHL has not chosen to rebuild their existing facility on W. 106th Street, which the NYS Dept of Health already approved (in 2008). This is particularly important because there will be massive environmental impacts from the proposed construction on W 97 relative to the W 106 site. The health and safety of more than 600 children are a stake. This should trump profitability as JHL’s chief concern.

    4. The PS 163 Task Force For a Safe School takes strong exception to Mr. Geto’s comment that JHL has taken the concerns of our school community to heart. JHL has refused to offer our school community any meaningful mitigation measures, but has instead insisted that we accept their word that everything will be safe for our children. We know that will not be the case. Promises like this have been made to countless numbers of public elementary schools facing construction next door, all with devastating consequences for the children, teachers and staff. P.S. 51 in Hell’s Kitchen is just one example.

      As a blatant example of how P.S. 163 will be destroyed, JHL itself has stated in the DEIS that the noise impacts of the construction will far exceed allowable state levels for a total of 14 months, or over two school years. According to JHL, that is “insignificant” because it is less than two full years. If anyone wants to hear what the noise will be like at the school for these 14 months, please go here:

      https://sites.google.com/a/ps163pta.org/tfss/documents/noise-sample

      We don’t believe anyone would want 14 hours or 14 days of this, let alone 14 months. And, certainly no one reasonable can call that “insignificant” particularly when the affected are our most vulnerable children as young as three.

      So, despite JHL’s self-serving statements, they have not offered anything “constructive” to our school community. We therefore request the community and elected officials to demand JHL to rebuild at 106th Street, where in stark contrast to the plan for development at 97th Street, the New York State Department of Health in approving such plan in 2008 has already indicated there would be no environmental impacts in a rebuild of the JHL facility at their present location.

    5. Catherine Unsino says:

      Dramatic changes in the economy and real estate now make it financially feasible for JHL to remain on 106th St. On that larger property, Jewish Home could become the nation’s leader in building a true state of the art urban nursing home.

      On too small a lot on 97th St, they’ve placed a horizontal suburban model on its ear, confining frail elders inside a high-rise, disconnected from the out of doors and from normal neighborhood life. This proposed age and illness segregated institution is obsolete before its built.

      Jewish Home has the capacity to build a true state of the art urban nursing home on 106th St, with two connecting 8 story buildings. Outdoor green space would be supplemented by patios on various levels.

      A theater and café on the first floor, available to residents of the nursing home and community could show films and feature concerts by classical and jazz artists, students of the 3 leading music schools on the uws, klezmer and salsa bands, etc. This multi purpose auditorium could have lectures on art, nature, history and civic issues and serve as a chapel for different denominations. JHL could use it for professional conferences. A gym would promote wellness.

      While some of these ideas have been initiated in other countries, JHL could make history in the US, pioneering a vision of what an urban nursing home, especially in Manhattan should be. This vision, more compatible with uws values and culture, sends the message that frailty doesn’t diminish the wish to live well – it creates more urgency. We can’t make these resources less accessible to vulnerable elders. Despite illness and disability, the pilot light is always on, seeking help in continuing to enjoy all that this great city and the rich diversity of its people have to offer. We’d all be on the same side, enthusiastically helping bring this about.

      • Pedestrian says:

        You have made excellent points but unfortunately developers no matter what their claimed religious or charitable status don’t really care what is best for the humans involved and it will be so much easier to convert the high floor building into luxury condos when they decide their “mission” would be better served by converting or selling the building.

        • webot says:

          Again, Pedestrian, the owner of the land building the building is the NURSING HOME, not a DEVELOPER of residential or commercial property looking for the highest and best use.

          Such an easy scapegoat in New York is to say evil developer. In life, nothing is so clear cut. Its like saying you are anti abortion or something.

          BTW, that roof over your head, the cute townhouse rows, the art deco grand dames on CPW., basically all housing not built by the government……all built by developers.

          • Paul RL says:

            Agreed, Webot. Developers do what developers are supposed to do – develop. And without development, cities and neighborhoods stagnate. That said, if this deal stinks (and in my opinion it does) the culpability lies squarely with the City and our politicians for allowing it to happen.

            • webot says:

              Fair enough Paul.

              Thank you reading and not just throwing flames at each other.

              I see your side, there does seem to be a back room deal here.

              and the other site at 106th would have been good for the new Home.

      • Kaz says:

        are the kids in PS165 are any more important then those that on PS145 that is on 105th St?
        Are tenets on 105 and 106 st not going to suffer from the construction noise? Probably not because they are used to it by now – right?
        after all, they have being suffering from the noise of the facially venting systems, the generators, and idle trucks for so long now, so they must be immune to that.

        • Parent says:

          My understanding is there will be construction at 106th St. regardless.

          • Paul RL says:

            Correct – Chetrit’s plans are to build low-rise (due to zoning) luxury apartments on the site of the current JHL. They’re no dummies – that area is red-hot right now and I’m sure they were thrilled to give up their 97th Street plot!

    6. Paul RL says:

      Unfortunately it will take a miracle to undo this project. Once again, the West ’90’s gets the shaft with a bad plan that that will do nothing to enhance the neighborhood.

    7. Daniel Holt says:

      If JHL’s highest priority were to ensure the health and safety of students and faculty of P.S. 163, then they wouldn’t be planning to build a high-rise building next door to the school. The absurdity of the statement speaks for itself. JHL’s highest priority is itself and any statements to the contrary are lies. They’re also pointless lies, because nobody believes them.

    8. Harriet says:

      I make no claims to being an expert here, but I did spend 2 years visiting a resident at the 106th St. facility every week. Therefore, I HAVE personal experience. The facility is SO old and falling down, that there seems little hope of modernizing it. The idea of outdoor space for the residents is very “liberal-cute” but most of these residents are not in a position to take advantage of it. Over the 2 years that I was there every week, I remember taking my friend out 3-4 times. Other times, either the weather was not ideal for her frail condition, or maintenance work was being done that closed off the outdoors. Let’s put up with 14 months of construction to have a modern pleasant facility. High rises are much lighter, which is an important concern for people who are bed-ridden or wheel-chair bound. Stop thinking so short term. There are LOTS of schools all over NY that are right next to a high-rise. That’s what New York is all about. that is not a reason to fight this project.

      • Paul RL says:

        Nobody is arguing that the elderly deserve a modern facility. This issue is about location, and this location stinks. The project will have quite a detrimental effect on the area. Furthermore, the Chetrit-JHL land-swap deal was made with no input or voice from the community. And it doesn’t matter if it’s 1 day or 14 months of construction – this should not be built on West 97th Street.

    9. kaz says:

      are the kids in PS165 are any more important then those that on PS145 that is on 105th St?
      Are tenets on 105 and 106 st not going to suffer from the construction noise? Probably not because they are used to it by now – right?
      after all, they have being suffering from the noise of the facially venting systems, the generators, and idle trucks for so long now, so they must be immune to that.

      • Paul RL says:

        Residents near the current JHL are no less deserving of a peaceful existence than anyone else. But the children and residents of West 97th Street are ALREADY suffering the effects of an ALREADY over-congested narrow street that ALREADY bears the burden of being a major River-to-River thoroughfare. In addition, the increased traffic, including ambulances, will funnel into one of the most dangerous and congested intersections in the city. I’m not suggesting that the current location is the perfect spot for it. The original land-swap would moved it to West 100th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus. To me that’s more sensible, as it’s a wide street that is not heavily trafficked.

    10. Dean Dacian says:

      As a graduate of PS 163 and a life long resident of the neighborhood, I can see from the comments, that there is a short sightedness and frankly ignorance as to how dangerous the neuro-toxicants in the soil are, let alone how unsafe the traffic hazards are and how badly they will be exacerbated during and after this supposed monstrosity. Bullets aren’t the only thing filled with lead that maim people and destroy families. No thanks to JHL of course, who with their Certificate of Need or CON, were cavalier enough to not deem it necessary or important enough to check the soil of parking that has been in existence for more than 50 years – most of that time, while lead was a common additive in petrol gas.

      You don’t have to believe me. Phillip Landrigan one of the world’s leading epidemiologists and pediatricians across town from us at Mt. Sinai led a world wide study which directly links hundreds if not thousands of toxins that directly correlate to many neurological diseases: brain damage, autism, ADD, mental retardation even high blood pressure, anemia, asthma, kidney damage – you name it. Lead is arguably the worst culprit. Since 1970 the “safe” amount of lead in a person’s blood has been getting smaller and smaller to the point that today – the almost unanimous belief in the scientific community is that no amount is safe. Of course the most at risk are children, pregnant women, the old and infirm. How many children in pre-k and grades 1-6 go to PS 163 a mere 30 feet from this site? Around 650… How many residents not that much farther away reside in 784, 788, 792 & 808, well over a 1,000… How many are pregnant, old or infirm?

      How many people work or pass through 97th between Columbus & Amsterdam on the average day? If you consider Stonehenge and all the other buildings that make up Park West Village, new and older buildings within a couple of block radius and wind patterns, you are talking a multitude. The farcical claim that JHL can mitigate might be funny, if it weren’t so hideously wrong – the only sure form of mitigation is not to disturb the damn parking lot! And lead is not the only neuro-toxicants that has been found in the soil there. Try arsenic, barium and mercury and there are plenty more. BTW, the amount of lead found in the parking lot is 4 times higher than what is deemed safe and higher than the lead content found in 100 parking lots throughout the city – do you understand my previous comment about the longevity of this particular parking lot? Do you also understand that there are many other potential toxins that could have seeped in from the many years of car exhaust and fuel, not to mention a 20,000 gallon oil drum that was known to have leaked – who knows what and was finally sealed in place after 5 years underneath the parking lot…?

      So let’s say they do build it… What about the already extremely congested 97th St. With Westbound traffic? What about the spate of accidents and fatalities which have not only our citizenry up in arms, but even our local elected officials desperately wanting to put a stop to this construction site? What about that traffic of more idling cars for pick-ups and services 24 hrs a day that will invariably needed, which will add to the emissions and carbon footprint. What about the school buses two wide and delivery trucks to Whole Foods and Associated that already make traffic a headache? Can you say nightmare? A couple dozen trees were hastily cut down behind 808 & 788 to make room for the potentially displaced parking space holders, despite the fact that JHL has not yet been approved – and if a build happens at least another 25 will have to be cut down. Why is that important? Because trees are the earth’s natural shock absorbers of pollution. Scientists estimate that they suck up to 1/5 of the man made pollution in our air. Now factor in those idling cars and their emissions which when they spike in certain areas are known to make for a very unhealthy air quality, bad for your lungs, etc. not to mention lowering test scores and IQs for young and mature minds alike.

      Park West Village was envisioned as an enclave for open spaces where people could raise a family on a budget, yet it still attracted the upper crust, hall of fame athletes and entertainers and the educated. In the last eight years, they’ve tried to shoe horn a shopping mall into it. “The Neighborhood Character” has been changing, but if they build this thing, it could be devastating. The ruination of a once magical, open community as diverse, vibrant, verdant as they come – a real melting pot inclusive of so much ethnic flavor and variegated socio-economic cross pollination, a “real” New York community. If JHL gets their way to desecrate, despoil and destroy – it might result in a mass exodus. Could that be what Joe Chetrit and his cronies really want…?

      The greed of a few fat cats and needs of a couple of hundred older folk, do not outweigh the needs and well being of the many…

      Oh and if this wasn’t sad enough, here is something that may make you laugh or cry, though it surely doesn’t surprise me:

      http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/05/05/96-year-old-woman-disappears-from-nursing-home-in-the-bronx/

      • webot says:

        Dean, We get it, you don’t want the Home built.

        Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it in theory. I do object to the ugliness of the proposed structure. Surely something more attractive or at least more contextual should be built.

        That said, your hysteria about toxins sounds , well, hysterical.

        First if it that bad, 1. it should be cleaned up , which it will be AND 2, we should all get out of dodge since according to you we live in Love Canal.

        and yes, sorry school kids, there will be construction. Welcome to New York City.

        • Dean Dacian says:

          Webot, who cares what I think. When one of the most respected epidemiologists in the world (who did this study in concert with other respected professionals in the field) says there is a looming global pandemic directly related to the neuro-toxicants in our environment, buttressed by facts and and not fiction – the heck with it; here let me help you, from The Lancet:
          http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(13)70278-3/abstract

          “Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence. In 2006, we did a systematic review and identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene. Since 2006, epidemiological studies have documented six additional developmental neurotoxicants—manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers. We postulate that even more neurotoxicants remain undiscovered. To control the pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity, we propose a global prevention strategy. Untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development, and chemicals in existing use and all new chemicals must therefore be tested for developmental neurotoxicity. To coordinate these efforts and to accelerate translation of science into prevention, we propose the urgent formation of a new international clearinghouse.”

          Or maybe you should read “Lead Wars” here:
          http://www.amazon.com/Lead-Wars-Politics-Americas-California/dp/0520273257

          One of the doctors who wrote it, is an Upper West Sider.

          Also, statistics show that above 100th Street the incidence of Asthma is one of the highest in the nation. Is that because of genetics, that maybe the majority being Black or Latino are predisposed…? I don’t think so…

          Maybe you don’t live near the proposed site or you’re cynical, a troll, bloody foolish, or in the employ of one of the parties set to benefit from the proposed establishment.

          I couldn’t care less – but to pretend that this is “business as usual”, “okay” or to be flip when the majority of people at risk, don’t have the financial means to deal with the potential health consequences is cruel, crass and well – let me stop at that.

    11. C. Marie says:

      Well, I think we should pay more attention to the elderly. I for one welcome it. My mother was in the Facility on 106th St. for rehab and it is pretty dismal. A new location is a good thing for our seniors. Too much attention has been put on children and not enough on the elderly. It’s pitiful. We hopefully all get older.