Environmental Review Ordered for Controversial UWS Nursing Home Development
UPPER WEST SIDE — Opponents of a proposed nursing home at an Upper West Side site they believe contains toxic levels of lead got a small victory after developers agreed to conduct a state-mandated environmental study.
Locals, including the urban renewal housing site Park West Village and P.S. 163, have long fought the Jewish Home Lifecare's plan to relocate to West 97th Street from its current West 106th Street location. They have raised a myriad of health and safety concerns about the planned 20-story nursing home ever since it was proposed.
The study, an Environmental Assessment Study (EAS) that is part of state requirements for starting construction, began last week and is expected to last another two to three weeks, said Ethan Geto, a spokesman for JHL.
The assessement may be just the first step in the overall review of the site. The EAS could prompt the state to request a more comprehensive study, an Environmental Impact Study (EIS), which would include public feedback.
Geto said based on similar projects, JHL expected the state to order an EIS, which he characterized as "a very expensive process." It would take about a year to conduct, he said.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer told residents of the area that a full review was likely.
"In the past, developments with similar land use and environmental conditions have almost always resulted in a Positive Declaration based on the EAS, and so a full-blown EIS is likely to follow," he wrote in a May 10 letter.
In preparation for this outcome, Geto said JHL is "in discussions with a couple of the top environmental consulting firms in the city."
"We will have an expert team coming on board that has a great reputation," he added, saying JHL would announce their names in a week or so.
He added that these kinds of requirements were anticipated and will not delay the construction timetable. JHL hopes to have a completed project some time by the end of 2014, but could not offer a more specific date.
Geto said the study was a "mutually constructive undertaking" for JHL and the community.
But opponents in the neighborhood said JHL only responded after the community cried foul.
"I think [the study] is a result of the public outcry," said Martin Rosenblatt, an opponent who is part of the group No JHL and PWV. "They never expected this to happen.
"The only thing the community has been asking for and demanding is that we have an EIS so it formally addresses the issues that they’ve addressed concern about," he said.
After community members conducted their own survey of lead levels on the property, the level of alarm among neighbors has ratcheted up.
"The lead levels found in the soil are frightening, and especially dangerous to young children and seniors," said City Council candidate Marc Landis. "Clearly, no development should be permitted to occur on this site until a full environmental impact assessment has been performed."