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Task Force Rejects CUNY-MSK Plan, Citing Traffic and Open Space Concerns

UPPER EAST SIDE — A task force has struck down the controversial zoning changes that would have made possible the development of a 1-million square-foot medical center and college complex.

As they have in the past, members of Community Board 8 demanded that developers for the City University of New York and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, which is seeking to build as big as they'd like and secure more parking spots, create a publicly accessible open area adjacent to the site. They also drummed up concerns about cars and trucks, citing skepticism that computer models accurately portrayed potential traffic impact.

"All of the institutions seem to be a little more willing to accommodate the neighborhood," said CB8 member Teri Slater at a meeting Tuesday night. "Bottom line is, this community wants something in exchange just like every other neighborhood.

"We want to be the West Side where you live," she said to one of the developers. "We're tired of the conditions in this area."

The project must still pass through another CB8 committee and the full board. Though their recommendations are not binding, they will be considered by city planners, who will ultimately decide on the proposed zoning change.

Anne Locke, an environmental analyst working on the project, later said that CUNY-MSK did want to address open space concerns by revamping Andrew Haswell Green Park in exchange for zoning changes — but that the task force rejected the idea, too.

Other residents voiced concern about the increase in traffic to the area — estimated to be 1,680 cars over a 24-hour period — which is already home to several large medical institutions.

"It's good that they are hospitals. They'll get the business," area resident Mina Greenstein said, adding that digital traffic analysis might miss the mark. "Get out and walk in the neighborhood. Don't just put this on a computer. The computer isn't a human being."

Shelly Friedman, a lawyer representing CUNY-MSK, said he empathized with the residents — and would make sure to address their traffic and building-based quality-of-life concerns as were other neighborhood projects.

"We do want to step away from the computers," he said. "We expect again to create that kind of construction monitoring and community programming."

Asked whether CUNY-MSK is worried about the task force's decision, Friedman told DNAinfo.com New York he is already looking ahead to CB8's Land Use Committee, which is scheduled to meet on May 8, 2013, to discuss the issue.

"We'll be here next week," he said.