By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
UPPER EAST SIDE – Weill Cornell Medical College is ready to begin building the frame for its new $650 million medical research building, its tower crane looming over the site at East 69th Street between First and York avenues and the chunk of the street sectioned off for trucks to unload.
After breaking ground in May and excavating 65 feet down for the 480,000-square-foot, 18-story building, the university is ready to enter the next phase of construction, for the poured concrete frame, which will take 16 months to complete.
The new building will double the medical school's research space, allowing it to add more than 30 scientists and expand its studies targeting cancer, cardiovascular disease, children's health, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, stem cell research and infectious diseases.
Richard Thomas, senior director of capital planning for Weill Cornell, presented an update to Community Board 8 members on Wednesday night, since he had promised when he got approval from them in 2008 that he would let them know when changes would be made.
The crane, which was originally planned to be placed in the middle of the construction site, went up on the perimeter of the site on Dec. 11, he explained, eliciting some concern from residents.
"I get goose bumps every time I hear the word 'crane,'" one CB8 member said.
"We are taking every precaution required by law and 10 times more," Thomas said, acknowledging residents' worries after the crane collapse in March 2008 on 51st Street and Second Avenue, which killed seven people, and the one a few months later on East 91st Street that killed two workers.
Thomas mentioned that 30 to 40 trucks a day — a maximum of five at a time — would be coming through the street, but tried to assuage traffic concerns. "The good thing about concrete construction is that the trucks can't stay very long," he said, explaining how they have 40 minutes to make the trip from Queens to the site to unload.
Another community board member said she saw an oversized truck get stuck trying to get around the construction site on East 69th Street and was worried about potential jams.
Thomas blamed that situation on vehicles disobeying the "no standing" sign on the block as causing the bottleneck. "People were violating the signs. It's a matter of policing," Thomas said.
Weill Cornell has a vested interest in keeping the traffic flowing, he added. "Nobody is more affected by the traffic on York Avenue than us."
The school, which was dedicating more than $200 million toward recruitment of additional faculty, expected the building to be completed by April 2014, Thomas said.