Handful of Upper East Siders Blast Cancer Center as 'Vanity' Project
UPPER EAST SIDE — A small group of neighborhood activists and local politicians staged a protest Friday against a cancer center and hospital complex planned for York Avenue — calling it a "vanity" project that doesn't give anything back to the community.
The half-dozen or so attendees — who included Manhattan Borough President hopeful Gale Brewer and City Council District 5 candidate Ed Hartzog — slammed the Memorial Sloan-Kettering and City University of New York project as an example of overdevelopment that would ruin the neighborhood with traffic and pollution.
Community Board 8 approved zoning changes for the controversial 1 million-square-foot project in May, but many residents felt that the vote was too close to accurately represent their feelings.
"Sloan-Kettering wants everything near their 68th Street campus," local resident Terry Grace said at Friday's protest. "In my opinion, it's vanity."
Grace, who was a MSK patient and still goes for follow-ups at the facility, said there's no reason the center has to be built there and reiterated opponents' claims that it doesn't serve the area.
"The community isn't getting anything out of the development," she said. "We're not benefiting at all.
"It's going to strangle this area," she added.
Organizers attributed low attendance at the protest to residents observing Rosh Hashana.
Jill Eisner, another protester, said support for the cancer center and the East 91st Street marine transfer station represent politicking by city officials who are trying to gain votes.
"They feel that by saying: 'Let's put something like a dump, like a garbage thing on York Avenue, let's take care of those uppity people on the Upper East Side. We're making it look like we're punishing the Upper East Side,'" she said. "This is going to punish the people that live here."
Eisner added that the center would also hurt the institution's staff, noting the lack of parking in the area.
The group's members, including Grace and Eisner, did emphasize that they aren't opposed to the hospital but rather its placement in a residential neighborhood.
They suggested it be built for underserved communities Downtown, and some have even voiced support for the city rebuilding a sanitation garage that previously operated on the site in place of the medical center.
Brewer, currently a City Councilwoman on the Upper West Side, said she opposed the project because of the lack of community consensus regarding the development.
When asked for an alternative plan, Brewer admitted she didn't know all the details, noting simply that opponents "have legitimate concerns that were outlined here today."