News | Upper West Side

After public hearings, locals await final environmental statement on controversial nursing home proposal

  • Ethan Wu for Spectator
    CARING HOME? | Jewish Home Lifecare has faced tremendous opposition from Upper West Side residents over a plan to build a new campus on 97th Street.

After two nights of impassioned and well-attended public hearings last week, locals against the proposed Jewish Home Lifecare building on West 97th Street are counting the weeks until a final environmental impact statement is released later this summer.

The May 7 and May 8 hearings—which were announced in March with the release of the draft environmental impact statement—gave politicians, heads of agencies and associated groups, and local residents the chance to voice concerns, ideas, and opinions about the proposed building.

Members of the public may send comments to the New York State Department of Health until May 19, after which community members will have to wait for the final environmental impact statement and a decision on whether or not the project will move forward.

Jewish Home Lifecare, a nursing home currently located on 106th Street, proposed building a 20-story replacement building on a parking lot on 97th Street in 2012 after an earlier plan to relocate to 100th Street fell through. Locals have vehemently opposed both plans—range from lead found in the parking lot to evacuation procedures in the building.

A variety of community members, ranging from kindergarteners at P.S. 163 to a 99-year-old resident, voiced their concerns about the impact of construction during the two nights of hearings. An overwhelming number of attendees called for the project to be canceled.

Athena Shapiro, a teacher at P.S. 163, brought a boombox onstage to simulate construction noise as she pretended to try to teach a class.

Gisele Sanchez brought her son, a pre-K student at P.S. 163, up to the microphone with her at the May 8 hearing.

“In September he will be learning to read and write and just starting to learn what education is,” she said. With the construction noise, “you couldn’t concentrate.”

Winifred Armstrong, a longtime resident of Park West Village, an apartment complex on 97th Street, was part of a group of Park West residents who organized a response opposing the project.

“The lot is the only open space on 97th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues,” Armstrong wrote in part of the group’s response. “Adding a nursing home, a 24 hour a day business, with its attendant constant medical, delivery, employee and residential entries/exits, portends serious change in the character of this vibrant, residential neighborhood.”

Local residents were also joined by elected city officials, many of whom have also been against the project.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, GS ’97, said that the draft environmental impact statement did not adequately address concerns about zoning compliance and construction pollution.

“If JHL had chosen to remain at its current location, we wouldn’t be having this discussion today,” Brewer said during the May 7 meeting. “However, since the institution wants to move, we must ensure that this is done in a responsible manner that fully analyzes the impact of such a facility, the needs of its target population, and the needs of the community in which it will be sited.”

State Assembly member Daniel O’Donnell, who attended the May 8 meeting, also sent a letter to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens on May 1 outlining his concerns about the project.

“The construction is planned … in a lot that is known to contain lead and other toxic materials, many of which would inevitably become airborne and potentially damaging to my constituents’ health during construction,” part of the letter said.

Still, JHL developers said that the benefits of the new building ultimately merit construction moving forward.

Scott Brown, director of marketing and business development at the Green House Project, an alternative nursing home organization on which the new JHL building is based, said that the new building is consistent with a sustainable model of nursing care.

“What we’re talking about here is not just a new building—Jewish Home is fundamentally changing what nursing care will be looking like in an urban setting,” Brown said. “I have no doubt this project will be completed in the safest, most responsible manner.”  |  @evakalikoff

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that toxins were found in the parking lot's asphalt. Lead was actually found in the parking lot. Spectator regrets the error.


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Catherine Unsino posted on

Eva Kalikoff's fine article captures unanimous community opposition to a project that would be as detrimental to the nursing home residents as it would be to community residents of all ages, incomes, races, and where we fall on the wellness/illness continuum.
One of the many concerns is existing traffic congestion on the W 97th St. block proposed for construction of the 20-story nursing home. Congestion already delays first responders from timely access to the thousands of people who live in the immediate vicinity as well as to the 630 young children at PS 163 that borders on the toxin laden construction site. If the high-rise nursing home is built there, first responders would be delayed even longer than at present and would have insufficient turn around for fire truck apparatus.
On January 30, 2014 I urged Manhattan DOT Commissioner Margaret Forgione at a CB 7 meeting in which she participated to meet with key members of the community who have been advocating for a comprehensive traffic study of the W. 96th/97th Street corridor since 2008. On Nov.9, 2010, CB 7's full board had voted unanimously in favor of that traffic study. To this date, none has been performed.
Instead of meeting with the community, Forgione met behind closed doors with Sam Schwartz, a paid consultant for Jewish Home Lifecare and endorsed his substantively inadequate, self serving submission for the NY State Department of Health.
Four independent traffic analysts have called for an impartial, adequate, comprehensive traffic study.
In 2002, when Schwartz was not a consultant for Jewish Home, he too found traffic conditions dangerous, warranting comprehensive analysis. Now that he's hired by the corporation, he changed his tune and submitted a shabby report that has been debunked by an independent traffic analyst.
DOT, asked to rescind their endorsement of Schwartz' study, flatly refused. Mayor de Blasio campaigned on correctly calling out Bloomberg's Tale of Two Cities governance. We ask the Mayor 1) to investigate DOT's behavior in this matter and oblige them to rescind their endorsement of the bogus traffic report and 2) order that an impartial, adequate and comprehensive traffic study be conducted on the dangerous W96/97th St corridor and 3) to order a moratorium on any large building on W 97th St unless and until it is determined to be safe to do so given the traffic situation.
It's dismaying to see DOT tout Vision Zero for safe streets when our immediate neighborhood has experienced an epidemic of traffic accidents, the most recent, today (5/18) on the very block in question. This is not the time for DOT to engage in conflicts of interest when their actions threaten public safety. New DOT Commissioner Trottenberg and Manhattan Commissioner Forgione have so far shown Zero Vision for our safety and welfare re W 97th St. We thought we would see welcome change with a new administration - that the 99% would at least have parity with the 1%. Show us by doing the right thing re West 97th St.