Opinion | Op-eds

Respecting the concerns of the community

Few local development projects in our area have generated as much debate and discussion as Jewish Home Lifecare’s proposed move to Park West Village, and for good reason.

In 2009, JHL announced its intention to vacate its property at West 106th Street and construct a new nursing facility within the Park West Village footprint. In turn, JHL would sell its current property to the Chetrit Group, which had already built several new residential buildings and a commercial strip within Park West Village. 

The proposed development site on West 97th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues is more than just a parking lot. It’s one of the last vestiges of open space within Park West Village, which has already been developed beyond recognition over the last decade.  

This parcel is also located directly adjacent to a public school, P.S. 163, which only raises the alarm about the potential health and safety impacts associated with this project, because it will be taking place near hundreds of students. 

For years, Park West Village residents, the surrounding community, the parents of P.S. 163, and elected officials have protested this project, citing concerns about traffic, construction safety, noise, and the scale of the proposed building.

These concerns are real ones: West 97th Street is already a busy corridor with heavy westbound traffic and a high concentration of delivery trucks arriving at local supermarkets. The traffic situation can only get worse with the construction of the new 20-story, 414-bed nursing facility.

Park West Village and P.S. 163 know very well the impacts of infill construction on their neighborhood. The residential and school community already had a grueling experience with construction several years ago during the development of the Columbus Square complex, which included loud drilling, excessive dust, and even a crane accident.

Most alarmingly, the community gathered at a meeting organized by the residents of Park West Village, where we heard the results of a study finding exceedingly high levels of lead at the proposed site for the nursing facility. Samples taken from the West 97th Street parking lot contained the highest lead levels of 12 parking lots studied throughout New York City. 

Surrounding residents—not to mention the parents at P.S. 163—are right to be concerned about the potential impacts on air quality if construction were to begin on this parcel.

 After extensive written communications to the New York State Department of Health requesting an opportunity to provide feedback on this project, the community won a significant victory when the department announced that it would in fact prepare an environmental impact statement for this site. DOH had previously granted approval to JHL for the construction of a nursing facility on West 97th Street.

The environmental impact statement presents an enormous opportunity not only for the community to be heard, but also for a robust study of the potential repercussions of this project on Upper West Side and Manhattan Valley residents’ quality of life.

As the current City Council member and the Democratic nominee for this district, we joined with our constituents at last month’s scoping meeting, which will help inform the range of issues covered by the environmental impact statement, in calling for a wide-ranging environmental review that would take into account the many concerns expressed by the community.

Now, as DOH moves through the process of preparing the statement, we need to remain vigilant as a community to ensure that the department is evaluating this project in a manner that truly considers the needs of the surrounding community first.

As we stated unequivocally at last month’s scoping meeting, we simply cannot even entertain the idea of this project moving forward until we are completely certain that there will be no adverse impacts on the health of the children of P.S. 163 or the residents of Park West Village.

While we do not dispute that the older adults residing at JHL would be better served by a new, upgraded facility, the community is expressing valid concerns that require serious consideration. 

Melissa Mark-Viverito is the City Council member for the district that includes the proposed location of the Jewish Home Lifecare nursing facility. Mark Levine is the Democratic nominee for the redrawn council district that will now include the proposed development site.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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Anonymous posted on

Very well said Melissa and Mark!

I urge you two to forward this to the New York Times, The Daily News etc.

The over-building disease is a city-wide health priority/problem and its threat has certainly transcended the valid concerns of the near neighborhood.

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Judith Baldwin posted on

Bravo for your article. Birdsong is heard in those trees, and each spring a cardinal comes to sing his song of wooing. And, airborne lead because of drilling is a real issue here.

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Anonymous posted on

I live across the street from this proposed development, so my family and I would be getting all the pollution, noise and disruption we have been warned about by the experts involved, and the neighborhood activists. Naturally, we cannot count on the developers and officials to properly "warn us". It is NOT their interest to educate the public about this monster. Please educate yourself on the potential disruption to our neighborhood that the construction and the building itself would cause. You'll be terrified and shocked, as I am now. I have never met a person who knows all the facts and would leave their kids in that otherwise great school, or would continue living across the street. It is so sad.

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Anonymous posted on

I live across the street from this proposed development, so my family and I would be getting all the pollution, noise and disruption we have been warned about by the experts involved, and the neighborhood activists. Naturally, we cannot count on the developers and officials to properly "warn us". It is NOT their interest to educate the public about this monster. Please educate yourself on the potential disruption to our neighborhood that the construction and the building itself would cause. You'll be terrified and shocked, as I am now. I have never met a person who knows all the facts and would leave their kids in that otherwise great school, or would continue living across the street. It is so sad.

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Anonymous posted on

Why does this important message go only to the neighborhood newspaper?..the Economist, the Nation and the City papers should be following this. It is certainly part of the continuing larger story of the continuing erosion of "People" values.....the tv news magazines might see possibilitities. In any case congratulations to Melissa and Mark for speaking out about this terrible mis-adventure. The "choir" is appreciative but your message has wider implications and potential interest.

You deserve a greater audience but you will only find it if you seek it.

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Linda Edgerly posted on

Thank you for writing this Op-Ed piece. I have only one change to suggest. That is in the next-to-last paragraph -- we simply cannot entertain proceeding with the JHL project in the proposed West 97th Street location. PERIOD.

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Manny jakel posted on

Everything said in the article by Melissa-Mark-Viverito and Mark Levine is true up to a point, with the exception of their assent to a "new upgraded facility" for the 'older adult residents who would be better served.' These last few words might give the impression that the writers might, under certain circumstances, agree with the proposed construction, because of their compassion for the residents now at 106th St. Nothing could possibly defy logic more than this way of thinking. It is both misplaced compassion coupled with a wrong conclusion,and although i know that Melissa and Mark are both excellent people of high character and principle, they might not have said this had they known about the amount of money involved behind this proposed arrangement between the Chetrits and JHL, and who is actually behind the entire scheme. JHL has sufficient capitol to build and enlarge the existing space they occupy on 106th St. and place the present residents living there in other places, temporarily, that they own or could easily find, IF THEY WANTED TO!! Also there is no shortage of lenders who would be eager to jump at the chance to lend JHL as much as they wanted. They know they could never find a better place to put their money.
The reason they would rather not do that is that it is more profitable for JHLto enrich themselves by getting an initial bonus of between $50,000,000.00 to $100,000,000.00 just to start construction and making the swap. Need i mention the benefits that will accrue to the Chetrits?

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Paul S. Bunten posted on

On September 2, 2008, the New York State Department of Health granted JHL approval to construct a 408-bed replacement facility on West 106th Street within the limits of the community-approved zoning carve-out created expressly for JHL. There has never been any program-related reason for JHL to depart from this initial plan.

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Manny jakel posted on

PLEASE, PAUL, SPARE ME YOU DRIVEL. AREN'T YOU ONE OF THE PEOPLE AT THE MEETING WHO IDENTIFIED HIMSELF AS A TRUSTEE.
If you are, identify yourself. If you're not, then you are a moron.

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Herman Joseph posted on

I was recently a patient in the Jewish Home and Hospital. The medical care and staff especially the main physicain on my floor who is affiliated with Mount Sinai, the nurses, physical therapists and orderlies were compassionate and first rate. However the building is old and the physical plant and equipment must be replaced. I understand that the rating and future of the hospital depend on the upgrading of the facility.
However the parking lot on the grounds of Park West Village is not the ideal location for a major medical facility. As a tenant of Park West Village I agree with the tenants association position. This is a real estate deal which may not be in the best interests of the community. However a modern 21st century facility is needed to serve the west side but not in the parking lot of PWV adjacent to a first rate public school. It is imperative to find another location for the proposed facility which services a diverse patient population.

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Anonymous posted on

Yes, my feelings exactly, there are places for this kind of institution, Park West Village is NOT that place, for many reasons. Take it elsewhere! It is a sensitive environment, a busy cross town street with tremendous traffic problems already (the street narrows from 3 lanes to 2 lanes within a block of PWV), a beloved farmer's market, and most of all, a large public school within FEET of the construction site. It is a newly built school with paper thin walls and windows FACING the proposed site. NO WAY.

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Barbara Gatje posted on

I trust this important opinion article will be seriously considered and that this dangerous and destructive project will be rejected.

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Patricia Loftman posted on

As we stated unequivocally at last month’s scoping meeting, we simply cannot even entertain the idea of this project moving forward until we are completely certain that there will be no adverse impacts on the health of the children of P.S. 163 or the residents of Park West Village. Does Melissa and Mark mean that the project would be acceptable to them if the issue of adverse health effects were removed?

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W 97th St resident posted on

I should allow them to answer this question but I cannot stop myself from asking: how on earth could anyone imagine the construction of a 20 storey building without noise, dust and disruption, and "remove" these effects?

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sandra serebin posted on

The large building that JHL has on 106th street is certainly large enough to have part of the building closed demolished and then a new building for the residents erected.
While the new building is being erected the residents could be relocated in the remaining area of the building that could be more efficiently used and there would be no need to destroy an area next to a school an area that has a very high concentration of lead which is known to cause damage to young children's intellectual development.

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Nydia Leaf posted on

The September 17 community hearing on JHL was a true case of the upper west side as CITIZENS UNITED - not, however, for any monetary gain. On the contrary - for the safety and well-being of young children at PS 163 to prevent exposure to lead and three years of construction noise, etc.

By contrast, JHL - given a waiver and concessions in 2008 to remain on their excellent and spacious 106 Street location - is ready to shoehorn itself onto 97th Street for money, pure but not simple.

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Chrigid posted on

This is just a cynical real-estate deal. If JHL had any interest in its patients, it wouldn't leave them boxed in on Amsterdam and W. 97th, where the only ambulance route to a hospital--north on Amsterdam to St. Lukes--is already a traffic nightmare. JHL's current property is not only closer to St. Lukes, and but the hospital can be approached in more than one direction. In fact, the current JHL has better access to any number of NYC hospitals than it would have to St. Lukes if permitted to move to that straight-jacketed corner. It's outrageous that the Department of HEALTH would even have considered approving a plan that would put patients' lives in danger like this, but under Bloomberg, real estate has been the only thing that matters.

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Manny Jakel posted on

CHIGRID: You say that "under Bloomberg, real estate has been the only thing that matters". Of course, you are 100% correct, but to put a fine point on it, it is BECAUSE of Bloomberg, and his stooge at DOH, that this project ever got off the ground.
Excellent work, Chigrid.

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Anonymous posted on

Bravo to the Columbia students following this story.

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Anonymous posted on

Excellent summary of concerns. Thank you to both of you for your efforts. I fear that Big Money will win, but perhaps our many voices and continued opposition to this proposed location may have a chance.

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you for writing this

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SOMEBODY PARK WEST WITH TWO VOTES AGAINST THIS ABERRATION posted on

NEVER IN MY BACKYARD NOR MY PARKING LOT

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Joseph Giustra posted on

Note: See NY Times, Front Page, "Council Woman Bruised Feelings In Zoning Fight" 1/4/2014.

Two Problems: Chetrit's and Melissa's

1) Chetrit's: Now that the overturning of the re-zoning is certain, will Chetrit be happy forced to build within the old zoning?

2) Melissa Mark-Viverito's: her rush to disown her active participation in what will certainly be viewed by her opponent in the election for Speaker of the NYC Council as a bait-and-switch, having accepted an $8,000 campaign contribution after pushing for the re-zoning for a community nursing home that no longer will exist on the site. Her late opposition to the suspicious deal between Jewish Home Life and the Chetrit group is understandable since it appears she was an innocent bystander who was exploited in the nefarious deal.

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