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.
“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the lead that was found there in its totality is nothing to be alarmed about, and bends the application of these mostly outdated standards to justify construction, not withstanding the damage to our health that this will cause to our community,” wrote Martin Rosenblatt, a local resident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.”