News | Upper West Side

State orders environmental study for nursing home relocation site

Jewish Home Lifecare is going under the microscope.

As expected, the controversial plans for a new 20-story Upper West Side nursing home will undergo an extensive state-mandated environmental study.  

File Photo
full report | The proposed site of the Jewish Home Lifecare relocation will undergo an Environmental Impact Statement.

Jewish Home, which plans to relocate to the middle of the Upper West Side’s Park West Village housing complex, has been ordered by the state Department of Health to complete an in-depth study of the potential impacts of development and past contamination at the site, a parking lot on 97th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues.

The study—an Environmental Impact Statement—follows a preliminary review ordered by the health department, which Jewish Home completed earlier this month.

Jewish Home spokesperson Ethan Geto, CC ’65, said the company would hire two leading firms, AKRF and Sam Schwartz Engineering, to conduct environmental and traffic studies.

“If our consultants find that there’s certain things that we need to do to avoid any adverse environmental impacts, then we will put together a plan” to address those impacts, Geto said.

Opponents of the project have long argued that it would increase traffic congestion, and a recent study sponsored by local residents found potentially toxic levels of lead in the parking lot.

“Whatever it is, you know, we will fund it as part of the overall project cost,” Geto said.

Jewish Home’s remediation plan will also be reviewed by city and state environmental agencies.

The study, which will take around a year, is not likely to cause delays, and construction is still expected to begin in 2014, Geto said.

But the review is still a victory for opponents of the move from Jewish Home’s current location on 106th Street. Park West Village resident Catherine Unsino said she would be pleased with the review “if it’s full, if it’s transparent, and if it’s done at a time when the parties who are most affected can participate.”

The EIS process will begin with a public meeting scheduled for Thursday at P.S. 163, adjacent to the parking lot slated for the new nursing home.  

In a development saga that has been wracked by controversy, however, even the date of the meeting has caused debate: Several local politicians have urged the health department to push the forum back until the start of the 2013-2014 school year to make it easier for P.S. 163 parents to attend.

Because Thursday is the day after school ends and only a short time after the EIS was ordered, “it may be more difficult to prepare and organize community stakeholders for this critically important meeting,” wrote City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents the area, in a letter to the department.

Update, 6/27: The public meeting has been postponed until Tuesday, July 30.

avantika.kumar@columbiaspectator.com  |  @avantikaku

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