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DISTRICT OFFICE 105 EAST 116TH STREET NEW YORK, NY 10029 (212) 828-9800 FAX: (212) 722

-6378 CITY HALL OFFICE 250 BROADWAY, ROOM 1882 NEW YORK, NY 10007 (212) 788-6960 FAX: (212) 442-1564 mviverito@council.nyc.gov

CHAIR PARKS & RECREATION _________________________ COMMITTEES AGING CIVIL SERVICE & LABOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CONTRACTS HOUSING & BUILDINGS PUBLIC HOUSING YOUTH SERVICES

THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO
COUNCIL MEMBER, 8TH DISTRICT

August 8, 2011

Nirav Shah, MD, MPH Commissioner New York State Department of Health Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza Albany, New York 12237 Re: Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged (New York County) CON #06-2403-C Dear Commissioner Shah: I am writing to you on behalf of the constituents of my district, many of whom continue to be deeply concerned about a newly-purported plan by Jewish Home and Hospital (now known as Jewish Home Lifecare or JHL) to construct a residential healthcare facility on West 97th Street in Manhattan. Before being able to continue with its plans, I again call upon the State Department of Health to convene a public hearing, where residents’ concerns about the project can be heard and taken into account. As I stated in my May 3, 2011 letter to Assistant Director Charles P. Abel, I have followed JHL’s plans very closely over the past few years and had many concerns about how its new facility – then planned for West 100th Street – would impact the local residents and the neighborhood that would surround it. Since then, JHL filed documents with the City Department of Buildings that have given the appearance that they instead plan to proceed with another parcel on West 97th Street. I share my constituents concerns regarding this latest iteration of JHL’s plan. The construction of a new residential healthcare facility on West 97th Street would present health and safety issues that do not exist at their current West 106th Street location, where JHL is the sole institutional presence. These health and safety issues merit discussion in a public forum before the State can truly consider granting JHL the ability to build on this new parcel. My constituents fear that the State Health Department – having denied public review of JHL’s plans to construct on West 100th Street because it was only deemed a “modification” of the original application – may now be relying upon this same dubious premise to deny public review of JHL’s plan to construct on West 97th Street, and that the Department may not even require a new filing by JHL.

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The conditions on West 97th Street are equally challenging as those that community members and I have identified surrounding the West 100th Street location. Below I will describe some of those conditions, which illustrate the need for more public discussion before JHL should be able to proceed. West 97th Street is a major east-west artery, carrying traffic from the 97th Street Central Park transverse to destinations on the West Side of Manhattan, including the West Side Highway. There are two public parking garages on West 97th Street diagonally opposite the site of JHL’s purported new facility, and commercial loading docks serving on a daily basis an enormous Whole Foods supermarket lie to the east of this site within the same block. An Associated Supermarket at the westerly end of the West 97th Street block accepts sidewalk delivery several times a week from a 60-foot semi-trailer parked on the street. Both of these delivery and cartage points have the demonstrated capacity to bring heavy traffic to a standstill at unpredictable moments in combination with additional, extraordinary traffic conditions. West 97th Street is also home to P.S. 163, a public elementary school that would lie directly west of the site being considered by JHL. In the morning and again in the afternoon, West 97th Street is congested with school buses dropping off or picking up children who attend the school. In addition, many of the children walk to school alone by passing through the Park West Village superblock from the north or approaching the school along West 97th Street from the east. All of these elementary school children would be required to cross in front of the 97th Street facility and confront the traffic created by the facility daily, at an unpredictable risk to their safety. School crossing guards are currently working to the very limit of their capacity to guarantee the safety of these children under traffic conditions that are already congested and potentially dangerous. In addition, traffic on West 97th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway is diverted to Amsterdam Avenue during part of the school day to provide a play area for the students of the Holy Name School, causing further tie-ups on the block to be occupied by the purported new facility. Additionally, the location of a new residential healthcare facility within the Park West Village neighborhood at West 97th Street would impede ingress and egress to 784 Columbus Avenue, a 16-story apartment building, which is serviced by a single driveway that would lie directly east of the purported new facility. The presence of large numbers of vehicles associated with the facility – delivery trucks, garbage trucks, ambulances, ambulettes, access-a-ride vans, staff vehicles, and visitors’ vehicles – would make access to 784 Columbus Avenue by EMS, fire, and police vehicles more difficult in times of emergency. Aside from how this facility will affect the surrounding community, there are also serious concerns about the health and safety of the residents of a 24-story facility in this overcrowded location. How will JHL accomplish effective evacuations in the event of a fire or other emergency? What will life be like for frail, elderly residents at the top stories of this large building? Because of all the many issues outlined above, I firmly believe that a public hearing is warranted to assess this new plan and the many issues that it presents to the prospective residents of this facility, as well as to the residents of the surrounding neighborhood. Recent comments to a local news service by a Health Department spokesperson, which appeared to dismiss the need for the consideration of local input into JHL’s significantly altered plans, because JHL has not incurred additional costs resulting from the changes, were very troubling to me and many
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residents of my district. The proposed site for this facility has been moved six, and now nine, blocks south from its original location, when plans were first filed with the State Health Department, into a distinct neighborhood within my district. The proposed facility’s height has also increased by as many as 10 stories. As I have written to the Department several times, I believe strongly that this constitutes a significant enough change to JHL’s application to the State that a public review process should be triggered under Section 2802 of the Public Health Law. The Department spokesperson characterized my constituents’ concerns as being “zoning and construction” issues outside of the scope of the Health Department. While the current zoning does allow for the construction of a building of this height, it should still be the responsibility of the Department to ensure that the location chosen by JHL would best serve the prospective residents of this facility. I urge the Department of Health to re-consider its position that the significant changes in the plans for JHL’s new facility constitute only a “modification” and therefore are exempt from public review. It is time for the Department to treat JHL’s newly revealed West 97th Street plan as the construction of a new residential healthcare facility, and to give the stakeholders who are directly affected by this plan an opportunity to exercise their rights to public participation under the State Hospital Code – both before the Department and before the new Public Health and Health Planning Council. Thank you for your attention to this matter and I look forward to your response. Sincerely,

Melissa Mark-Viverito Council Member – District 8 cc: Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo Hon. Thomas K. Duane, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Health Hon. Bill Perkins, Senator, District 30 Hon. Richard N. Gottfried, Chair, Assembly Health Committee Hon. Daniel J. O’Donnell, Member of Assembly, District 69

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