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Ask YOUR questions of the Blood Center/Longfellow tower proposal

Following an announcement last week that the New York Blood Center/Longfellow commercial office tower proposal at 310 East 67th Street has entered the “pre-certification” phase of the City’s official public review process, known as ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), the project team will appear tomorrow at the Zoning and Development Committee of Community Board 8 for the first time since plans were announced in Fall 2020.

Stand with FRIENDS and your neighbors tomorrow:

Zoning and Development Committee
Tuesday, March 23rd
6:30 PM

The applicant will provide an update on the proposal to demolish the current Blood Center building, and construct a massive 334-foot commercial tower on a low-scale residential block where zoning established 35 years ago limits height to 75 feet.

FRIENDS is leading the civic fight against the Blood Center/Longfellow’s outsized tower because:

  • Undoing the mid-block contextual zoning that is critical to preserving the livability and neighborhood character sets a dangerous precedent for the entire Upper East Side.
  • Shadow impacts on St. Catherine’s Park, the six-school Julia Richman Educational Complex, and the streets and sidewalks throughout the East 60s will be profound.
  • The sheer size of the building, both its height and its footprint, are similar to midtown commercial towers. With a floor plate of over 30,000 square feet each floor is comparable to buildings like the Freedom Tower, One Vanderbilt, and even the Empire State Building.

But there are also serious open questions about what the project entails. The Blood Center will occupy just 35% of the building. The rest of the space will be controlled by life sciences developer Longfellow and leased to undisclosed commercial tenants. After public review on the scope of environmental review closed, FRIENDS learned these spaces would include biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) high containment research laboratories, intended to handle dangerous pathogens and microorganisms capable of causing potentially lethal infections. According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, potential accidents in BSL-3 labs present “the greatest potential risk to public health” and could have “catastrophic consequences.”

Not only was this information withheld from the public, and Department of City Planning in its capacity as the lead agency in the rezoning application, but there has also been no clarity to date from the Blood Center/Longfellow about such questions as what safety and mitigation measures will be in place to protect public health, how much space will be devoted to such labs and their location in the building, the proposed materials to be studied within, or the required oversight necessary for proper management and safety. FRIENDS’ requests for information from the Blood Center team, as well as calls for a re-start of the scoping process and more clarity on the proposed project to the Department of City Planning, have so far gone unanswered.

These calls were amplified by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in a recent letter to DCP, describing her “serious concern” about this omission and raising “serious questions about the adequacy of safeguards and the potential impact of such a laboratory." So far, DCP has not responded to Borough President Brewer’s dual concerns about the substance and process of this application, and has given no indication that it will re-start the environmental review process. That the project has now been “pre-certified,” putting the public on notice that the city’s official 7.5-month public review could begin as early as April 19, 2021, underscores the administration’s commitment to this project, regardless of the damaging and potentially dangerous community impact.

Councilmember Ben Kallos has a key role to play in this process, as the project must be approved by the City Council at the end of ULURP. Now is the time to make sure he knows how what you think about this proposal!

Zoning and Development Committee
Tuesday, March 23rd
6:30 PM