By Jeff Mays
UPPER WEST SIDE — A plan to move a proposed $200 million high-rise senior care facility six blocks down from its original location should trigger another public hearing on the project, Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito told state health officials.
Jewish Home Lifecare originally planned to build a 14-story residential care building on its current campus at West 106th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. But now, the non-profit agency plans to move the campus to West 100th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam and build a 24-story facility.
State Department of Health officials have ruled that a public hearing is not required because the application has not changed significantly and the building is located within the same zone. But Mark-Viverito and area residents disagree.
Not only is the building at the new location taller, the area is already incredibly busy with several high-rise residential buildings, a police and fire station, two parking garages and two loading docks among other facilities, Mark-Viverito said. Six blocks in New York City means an entirely different neighborhood will be affected as well.
"There is a fire station and police station on that block and cars are already double and triple parked. To add a nursing home with 24 stories where ambulances will be coming in and out just doesn't seem to make sense," said Mark-Viverito, who represents Harlem and parts of the Upper West Side.
"We want the commissioner to allow this community to have a say."
At West 106th Street, community members were able to enter into long-term negotiations with Jewish Home Lifecare about the project and how it would affect the area.
In order to switch locations, Jewish Home Lifecare is selling its current West 106th Street campus to developers Chetrit Group and Stellar Management and acquiring land at West 100th Street and cash from the same developers to build its new project.The former West 106th Street campus would be developed into housing.
Ethan Geto, a spokesman for Jewish Home Lifecare, said the agency will follow any decision from the state Department of Health, but agrees that a new hearing is not necessary.
The agency will also establish a community advisory board for the new locatios. Once the development agreement is finalized, Geto said Jewish Home Lifecare will open discussions with all area elected officials and resident groups.
"We have engaged in and will continue to engage in an open process with community input. We want to work collaboratively," Geto said.
Plans are in the works to mitigate traffic and other community concerns. For example, a driveway will mean that ambulances and taxis will not block the street, he said.
The West 100th Street area has seen considerable development recently, with new luxury high-rises and a Whole Foods coming into the area as part of the Chetrit Group's Columbus Village project. The new facility will break with traditional hospital-style elder facilities and instead house residents in more private independent-living style apartments, Geto said.
"The model is to make a nursing home as close to living at home as you conceivably can," said Geto.
The "Green House Model" nursing facility will cluster residents in apartment-like settings with their own kitchen rather than the large, institutional-style dining halls common to many facilities. The project is the first of its kind in a dense urban setting and is being looked at as a national model for this type of facility.
"Our hope is that this is a ground-breaking facility that sets the standard for future nursing homes," Geto said.
Peter Constantakes, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health said nothing about the move triggers state guidelines for a new hearing.
The change in cost between the two projects is approximately $1 million. Under state guidelines, a new hearing is triggered when the new project costs change by 10 percent or $10 million. The project also lies within the same zone.
Constantakes recommended that Mark-Viverito and concerned community members address their concerns with local agencies instead.
"A lot of the issues being raised are local zoning ordinances that are beyond our authority. We are very limited," Constantakes said. "We do not deal with the issue on a block-by-block basis. We always want applicants to work with the local community to deal with the zoning and construction issues."
If anything changes to trigger a re-examination, Constantakes said the state will do so.
Mark-Viverito says the new locations presents life and safety issues that state officials should consider before placing a facility for the elderly there.
"They consider it a small modification but I think it's a completely whole new ball game," said Mark-Viverito. "The community at 100th Street wants the opportunity to provide input."