Tricia Shimamura’s Testimony Regarding the Proposed Rezoning of the New York Blood Center
I submitted the following testimony to the New York City Planning Commission in opposition of the proposed rezoning of 310 E 67th Street.
December 28, 2020
City Planning Commission
New York City Department of City Planning
To the New York City Planning Commission in the Department of City Planning:
I am writing in opposition to the proposed new building to replace the New York Blood Center, at 310 E 67th Street, (CEQR №21DCP080M).
I am a resident of the neighborhood, a social worker, a mother, and a member of Manhattan Community Board 8. I frequently take my 1 year-old son to St. Catherine’s Park (located across the street from the proposed project), and have long attended community meetings at the New York Blood Center. I am very familiar with this site and firmly believe that the proposed project is not appropriate and out of context for this midblock site.
This project is proposing several rezoning actions that would dramatically change the density, traffic, light and air, and sense of place in this neighborhood.
The proposed project is requesting a rezoning of an R8B district for the first time on the Upper East Side, a zoning allocation that was specifically created to preserve the low-rise character of the block. A change of this magnitude would set a dangerous precedent for future developments and it is troubling that the proposed scope of work is not examining the long-term impact of such a zoning change. City Planning has consistently upheld a policy of maintaining higher-density buildings on the avenues, while keeping lower-density buildings on the midblocks. I urge the Commission to consider how approval of this proposed change would contradict this policy and again create a dangerous precedent for a neighborhood that is already struggling to keep its residential character.
Additionally, there are several transportation concerns that are not currently being addressed through the proposed Draft Scope of Work. First, I understand that the proposed project is using the Alexandria Center for Life Science as a similar project with regard to transportation planning assumptions. However the Alexandria Center is a very different type of biomedical laboratory with collaborative research that operates on a very large urban footprint. In comparison, the proposed project is a commercial lab within a much more concentrated footprint and brings with it a wide range of possible transportation impacts, including laboratory deliveries, transit between medical or research offices, etc. There is no guarantee that the transportation needs would be limited to the needs of a purely research and testing facility. Therefore, the proposed transportation assumptions are inadequate, and are describing a different type of facility. The transportation assumptions should accurately be assessing the impact of a commercial laboratory with a wide range of proposed uses.
Several parents, educators, and neighbors have also raised concerns about the transportation and safety impacts of such a project on the Julia Richman Education Complex (JREC), located across from the Blood Center. This complex serves children of all ages and of all abilities, many of whom have significant cognitive impairments. I understand that buses are regularly parked in front of JREC throughout the morning and afternoon, making it easy to see how additional traffic on this block could lead to serious pedestrian safety concerns. I urge the Commission to ensure that the Draft Scope of Work include a thorough assessment of how this project would impact JREC, its transportation needs and the safety of its students and teachers.
Finally, I share with my neighbors a deep concern of the impact this proposed project would have on the block’s overall sense of place. This is a quiet residential block — especially in the midblock. It is communal and family-oriented in nature, thanks in large part to JREC. The significant zoning changes to allow for a high-density commercial laboratory in the midblock will dramatically change the feel of this block, and I urge the Commission to consider how the distinct sense of place would change with this development.
I have been disturbed by claims from local residents, JREC, and neighborhood organizations that this project has consistently failed to engage them or meaningfully integrate any community input in the early stages of development. This is not how development should work in New York. Developers should not be rewarded for lack of community engagement and lack of transparent and honest communication about the impact of their projects on any given neighborhood.
I urge the City Planning Commission to include these concerns when assessing this project and the final Scope of Work.
Further Information about ULURP and Land Use:
We anticipate that the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be completed in early spring of 2021 (with an opportunity for public comments), and a final EIS and Statement of Findings issued before summer 2021. After the final EIS is completed, the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) will begin, in which the Community Board will hold a public hearing and make a formal recommendation to the applicant, the City Planning Commission (CPC), the City Council and the Borough President. Members of the public will have another opportunity to give testimony and raise any concerns about this project to the Community Board. After the Community Board’s review, the Borough President will also weigh in on the project, before it goes back to CPC for approval. For a full explanation of the ULURP process, you can click here.