UPPER WEST SIDE — A controversial plan to relocate an Upper West Side nursing home has shifted three blocks south, but neighborhood opposition to the move hasn't budged.
Jewish Home Lifecare, a skilled nursing facility on West 106th Street, now plans to build a new 24-story facility on West 97th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, spokesman Ethan Geto told DNAinfo on Tuesday.
The three-block move hasn't quelled neighborhood opposition, which has been mounting since Jewish Home Lifecare announced the move four years ago.
"Either 97th or 100th Street to me seems to be a very inappropriate location," said City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents parts of Manhattan Valley and the Upper West Side.
"It's a really congested area and it really concerns me that they’re planning to build a 24-story nursing home there."
Opponents including Mark-Viverito, members of Community Board 7 and local residents said they were against Jewish Home Lifecare's plans to build on West 100th Street because the busy block was already home to high-rise apartments, a library, police and fire station and other facilities.
But they say West 97th Street is an even worse location. They say it poses "health and safety risks" because the street is narrower than West 100th Street, drivers often use it as a cut-through to Central Park, and there's a school and loading docks for a nearby Whole Foods on the block.
Aside from the project's potential impact on neighbors, locals have also raised concerns about how Jewish Home Lifecare's older clients would fare at the new location.
"How will Jewish Home accomplish effective evacuations in the event of a fire or other emergency? What will life be like for frail, elderly residents who are confined within the space of what is now a tiny parking lot legally approved for 81 cars?" wrote local residents in a recent letter to New York State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah.
Residents say their concerns aren't being heard, and they want the State Department of Health — which oversees skilled nursing facilities — to hold a public hearing on the move.
"There are health and safety issues that haven't been properly assessed, and we've been denied a chance to speak these things on the record," said Paul Bunten, president of Westsiders for Public Participation.
"It's not just our opinion; these are facts. We're not doing this to waste the commissioner's time. If we didn't believe we had something important to say, we wouldn’t be so adamant."
But Jewish Home Lifecare spokesman Geto said the community will have a chance to ask questions at a public forum to be held after the details of the move are finalized. The senior facility is in the final stages of negotiating a land swap with developer The Chetrit Group that will make the move possible, he said.
Four years ago, when Jewish Home Lifecare decided its aging West 106th building — parts of which date back to the 1880s — was no longer meeting its needs, the senior facility planned to sell part of its campus to a residential developer, then use the proceeds to pay for a new building on West 106th Street, Geto said.
But the recession dealt a blow to that plan. Of the 100 developers that expressed interest in the idea, only Chetrit remained on board through the credit crunch, Geto said.
Instead of paying Jewish Home Lifecare in cash, Chetrit proposed giving the senior agency empty land within Park West Village, the seven-building apartment complex that Chetrit partly owns between West 97th and 100th streets and Columbus Avenue and Central Park West.
Jewish Home Lifecare ultimately decided against building on the West 100th Street site because the site wasn't as well-suited to creating an "innovative" facility based on "the most advanced nursing home model in the world," Geto said.
Jewish Home Lifecare's new building will follow what's called the "Green House" model, which puts clusters of private rooms around a living room and kitchen, instead of hospital-style long corridors lined with rooms, Geto said.
"We wanted to create the most pioneering and advanced nursing home in the country and that's what the 97th Street site permits," Geto said.