Nursing Home Wins Right To Build

Planning Commission rejects a challenge to proposed project on Upper West Side.

04/10/12
Jewish Week Correspondent
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Jewish Home Lifecare has received approval from the New York City Planning Commission to build a new, high-rise nursing home on Manhattan’s West 97th Street overcoming a major hurdle to the project.

Better known to New Yorkers as the Jewish Home and Hospital, its former name, the agency is planning to close its current nursing home in the borough, an outmoded, inefficient facility on West 106th Street, and relocate the operation in a new, 20-story high-rise by the spring of 2017.

But the agency ran into neighborhood opposition, much of it from residents of Park West Village, a complex of buildings surrounding the site.

Opponents of the project have contended that a building on the site, now a parking lot for about 20 cars, would worsen traffic congestion in an already overbuilt neighborhood, raise noise levels and even jeopardize the safety of children whose elementary school borders the lot.

They brought their objections to the area’s community board, which passed a resolution in February claiming that the project would create a “scarcity of land” for other community organizations — a move that threw the agency’s plans into the hands of the Planning Commission.

Had the commission agreed with that finding, JHL would have faced a full-blown land review, a costly, time-consuming process that might have stretched for years and would have required input not only from the Planning Commission and community board, but also from the borough president and City Council. But the commission voted overwhelmingly March 26 — 11 to 0, with one abstention — to reject the community board’s finding, allowing JHL to build on the site.

“The issue is now put to rest permanently and definitively,” said Ethan Geto, JHL’s spokesman, “and we proceed with our project.”

While the chairman of the community board doesn’t call the project a fait accompli, he described the commission’s action as a victory for JHL. “It’s obviously a significant move forward for Jewish Home Lifecare,” said Mark Diller. “Whether it gets them all the way home, I’m not competent to tell you that.”

An agency of UJA-Federation of New York, JHL actually needs two additional documents before it begins construction, Geto said — a foundation, or construction, permit from the city’s Department of Buildings and a certificate of need from the state’s Department of Health. The certificate of need, required for any proposed hospital, nursing home or medical facility, simply states that there’s a need for the facility or additional beds in the area.

Geto said the agency expects to begin construction on the site in early 2014, after raising money for the new project and completing designs for the space. The project will follow the model established by the Green House Project, a national effort to de-institutionalize nursing homes and make them more homelike.

JHL also hopes to put together a community advisory board for the project, as it promised neighbors of the site, Geto said. The advisory board would make recommendations to the agency regarding construction, he added, and the agency, in turn, would “strive to accommodate as many of the community’s concerns as we can.” 

Last Update:

05/07/2012 - 17:36

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JHL has stated twice during 2012 at public meetings of Manhattan Community Board 7 – through a lobbyist – that it wants to cooperate with the stakeholders of the Park West Village neighborhood, but has consistently demonstrated the opposite through its public behavior over the more than two-and-a-half years since its announcement that it intends to be a good neighbor to us.

Ever since it summarily abandoned its long agreed plan to redevelop its West 106th Street campus in August 2009, JHL has not disclosed the smallest meaningful detail of its real estate development intentions for the Park West Village neighborhood.

In short, JHL’s track record of Community Outreach is one of private negotiations and isolated statements furnished to local newspapers by its lobbyists, but not of open disclosure to by far the most prominent stakeholders of the Park West Village neighborhood: its many thousands of residents.

Doug Chandler again gets the facts wrong. The Planning Board simply denied a scarcity of space which would have required a more extensive review. It did not approve anything. Only the State Health Commissioner can approve JHL's 97th street plan. Chandler has never mentioned that the residents of Park West Village have never objected to JHL's original plan to rebuild on West 106th Street, which was approved by the State in 2008. Our opposition to 97th Street is not based on hostility to caring for seniors - many of us are seniors - but simply to a location that is dangerous to us and the children at PS163. Chandler's articles look like they are the product of JHL's publicity people, not the product of investigative reporting. I spent an hour on the phone with him and he barely used any of the information I gave him.

It is not a parking lot for 20 cars, it is a parking lot for some 100 cars, whose owners have gone to court to protects their renter's rights from being infringed upon. I'm with "Truth Seeking Neighbor"; JHL's misrepresentations are astounding.

Is warehousing the elderly in a 20-story tower de-institutionalizing a nursing home? It's in effect trapping many physically compromised elderly people in a situation that makes it difficult for them to access the outside world. JHL's current 106th Street campus has 2/3 more land than the proposed 97th Street location.
106th Street could be rebuilt, as originally planned AND already approved by the Department of Health, offering elderly residents easy access to the outdoors since they'd continue to reside on low floors - and have the ability to enjoy the large garden which will be impossible to recreate on the small 97th Street plot. If your relatives are at JHL, do you want them trapped in a tower? Think of evacuation in the event of an emergency. That alone says "Stay on 106th Street."

Doug Chandler do your homework: Community Board 7's resolution did NOT say "project would CREATE a 'scarcity of land'". The resolution stated that there "IS a scarcity of land". You, the JHL spokesman, and Jewish Week should all be ashamed of your misrepresentations of the truth. I wish I was a JW subscriber so that I could cancel my subscription.

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