On April 19th, the New York Blood Center certified an application at the City Planning Commission for an astonishing array of rezoning, special permits, and amendments for a new building on their site at 310 East 67th Street. Cumulatively the requests, if granted, would upend decades of zoning policies that have created and sustained the most special characteristics of our historic residential neighborhood, from 59th to 96th Streets and Central Park to the East River.
FRIENDS has retained the law firm Carter Ledyard & Milburn as a strategic partner in the upcoming public review process, known as ULURP. We invite you to read the following summary, to make your voice heard strongly and consistently throughout the numerous points for public input in the months ahead, and to support FRIENDS with your contributions as we lead this critically important fight.
- The proposal seeks to allow a 600,000 square foot commercial building in a residential midblock. The 334 foot tall building has floor plates the size of the Empire State Building and would be 4.5 times taller than the 75 foot height limit allowed by zoning – zoning that was designed to preserve access to light and air, especially given the location directly across from St. Catherine's Park and six schools in the Julia Richman Educational Complex.
- The proposal would permit large-scale commercial uses and laboratories that are antithetical to the modest services and shops appropriate and necessary to residential neighborhoods.
- The proposal would permit the creation of hundreds of thousands of "office" space when the city is in a commercial real estate crisis with a vacancy rate of 15%, or 68.4 million square feet.
- The proposal is silent on whether the biosafety level 3 labs (BSL-3), a use that the City's own Board of Health states poses the potential for "catastrophic consequences," are available to commercial tenants. This hazardous use may be both for the Blood Center itself and the tenant spaces on the upper floors.
- Finally, the Blood Center itself has stated that its programmatic needs can be met by rebuilding within the existing zoning envelope. Most of the building would be controlled by Longfellow, a for-profit real estate firm based in Boston; the Blood Center would occupy just 35% of the space.
As stated by Council Member Ben Kallos, who has a key vote at the end of ULURP,
"the Blood Center does important work and could absolutely expand without a rezoning of this magnitude if for-profit development was not the main focus here. This is why we insist that the Longfellow proposal... is excessive and if allowed to go through unchecked will change our neighborhood forever."
Other local elected officials including Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright have opposed the building as proposed. Yet the Mayor and City Hall continue to advance the project as an essential part of the city's life sciences industries, at YOUR expense.
We can only fight this misguided and inappropriate tower with your support. Give now to help FRIENDS sustain this fight as the public review process unfolds. The next opportunity to learn more AND speak out is the CB8 Zoning Meeting Tuesday, April 27th at 6:30 pm.