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State Must Redo Environmental Review of Nursing Home Tower, Judge Says

By Emily Frost | December 16, 2015 3:50pm
 The project is set to begin construction in the summer of 2016. JHL said it will either appeal the court ruling regarding its environmental review or work with the DOH on an amended review.
The project is set to begin construction in the summer of 2016. JHL said it will either appeal the court ruling regarding its environmental review or work with the DOH on an amended review.
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The state Supreme Court ruled that the state Department of Health failed to adequately review the potential impact of noise and hazardous materials from the construction of Jewish Home Lifecare's proposed 20-story nursing home and must redo those aspects of its environmental review. 

Parents and students from P.S. 163, the elementary school next to the nursing home site at 125 W. 97th St., sued JHL last March to stall the project, which has not yet begun, as well as force JHL to improve its construction-mitigation plans. 

Tenants living next to the site, including older residents with serious health issues and parents speaking on for their children with health problems, also filed a lawsuit against the state Deaprtment of Health in early April. 

On Dec. 9, Supreme Court Justice Joan Lobis bundled the two lawsuits and ruled that the DOH's Dec. 14, 2014, approval of JHL's project is "vacated and annulled." The judge said the department must "reconsider its findings on the issue of noise and hazardous material" as part of an amended Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), court documents said.

"We are obviously very pleased that the Court validated the very serious safety and health concerns that we had about the proposed construction," said Rene Kathawala, a P.S. 163 parent and the school's pro-bono legal counsel. 

JHL and the state Department of Health can pursue a "supplemental EIS" that focuses on those two issues, or appeal to the Appellate Division, said JHL spokesman Ethan Geto. 

A supplemental EIS would not take as long as a full EIS, he noted. 

Under either option, "we expect that the previously targeted start of construction, summer 2016, will not be significantly delayed," Geto said. 

Last March, Geto said construction would begin in the last quarter of 2015. JHL later updated its timeline, but moving construction back had nothing to do with the lawsuit, he said Wednesday.

Construction will last at least two years, Geto said previously. 

“The Supreme Court’s ruling supports what we have argued for nearly two years: a multi-year construction project footsteps from classrooms poses a threat to students," said Councilman Mark Levine said of the judge's decision.

"This ruling is a victory for the families of P.S. 163, and we will continue to fight shoulder to shoulder with them," he added. 

Levine has proposed legislation, Intro 420, that would restrict construction noise next to schools. The bill has 25 co-sponsors and had a committee hearing this past June, but it has yet to be voted on by the City Council. 

The state Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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