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Upper West Siders Cite Health Risks in Suit Against Nursing Home Project

By Emily Frost | April 16, 2015 2:57pm
 The lawsuit alleges the state did not take a "hard look" at the evidence of the environmental hazards involved in the construction project.
Residents File Suit to Stop JHL Nursing Home Project
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Residents from buildings surrounding the site of a forthcoming 20-story nursing home are the latest to sue the state Department of Health for approving the project, whose construction they charge will pose dangers to their health.

The suit filed on April 8 argues that the state DOH, which approved Jewish Home Lifecare's new West 97th Street nursing home project in November, did not "take a hard look" at the health effects of the development on residents.

The "respiratory irritants, contaminated dust and toxic substances" created during 30 months of construction on the nursing home will exacerbate residents' existing health problems, including emphysema and lung scarring, said the suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

The health department did not evaluate all of the environmental and health concerns raised by the public and did not provide a "reasoned elaboration” for why it granted approval, the suit adds.

Instead, the state relied too heavily on assertions by JHL about levels of dust and contaminants, as well as its mitigation measures, and "failed to exercise its independent critical judgment," the lawsuit alleges. 

A group of parents at the school adjacent to the planned construction site also filed a lawsuit, arguing that the remediation plan to keep the school community safe is negligent and that construction will harm children's ability to learn. 

The petitioners in the latest suit — many of whom are senior citizens living at nearby Park West Village, and all of whom argue their health would suffer as a result of JHL's plan — are calling for a judicial order that would nullify the state's environmental review and its approval. 

Among the 10 petitioners is a 45-year-old breast cancer survivor with scarring on her lungs that leaves her vulnerable to respiratory infections, the suit says. Another is a 17-year-old boy who has severe allergies, while another is an 87-year-old woman with emphysema, according to the suit.

Members of the task force No JHL at PWV raised money to enlist environmental lawyer Joel Kupferman to help them file the action, said task force member Martin Rosenblatt.

The legal proceedings are expected to take several months, Rosenblatt added.

The state "totally ignored all the testimony we gave," he noted of the hearings held last spring and this fall during the public environmental review process. "We are hoping that the court listens to us and rejects the [approval] as a result of how the [environmental review] was done."

A spokesman from JHL said the nonprofit understood that no one likes to have construction next to where they're living. 

However, "with this project Jewish Home is planning to take exceptional measures to assure neighbors are not adversely affected by construction — measures that go well above standard industry practice and regulatory mandates," the spokesman said. 

Those remediation efforts include air monitoring and using low-emissions construction equipment whenever possible. "The site also will be watered down regularly during operations that may produce dust," the spokesman said. 

JHL has said it plans to begin construction in the last quarter of 2015. 

The State DOH declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

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