Cancer Center Moves Ahead, With Some Opposition

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The joint hospital and science campus planned for East 73rd Street needs a zoning amendment to move forward As Memorial Sloan Kettering and the City University of New York move forward on a planned new joint-campus campus center on the Upper East Side, some members of the local community continues to express objections about the crowding, noise and congestion they say the facility will bring. The MSK-CUNY project moved another step through the period of public review when Community Board 8's task force voted to approve a zoning text amendment the hospital applied for in order to accommodate the building plans. The zoning text amendment would allow the complex to build a larger building, despite zoning laws of the area. In exchange, MSK-CUNY would complete a public service project for the community. They have pledged to renovate and improve Andrew Haswell Green park, located on the East River from East 59th to 63rd Street. Representatives from MSK-CUNY also discussed the environmental impact statement that was released last month. As of right now, no plans have been altered for the MSK-CUNY cancer center, but despite the task force's recent approval of the project, the community still has plenty of questions. The environmental impact assessment found no significant impact on parking, transit or pedestrian conditions. MSK also has said that many of the adverse effects on traffic can be mitigated. Gari-Smith Alexaides, a community activist, is not buying this though. "There will be traffic because there will be less spaces and people will have to circle to find parking," said Alexaides."Environmental impact? I will be impacted, and so will many of my neighbors." Another neighbor, Denise Cruz, who was born and raised on the Upper East Side, was also concerned about the traffic problems created by both the construction and the eventual everyday usage of the cancer center. "The impact statement doesn't seem accurate. Just stand at 79th Street at any hour of the day, and we have traffic," said Cruz. "I don't see how a medical center having valet parking will ease that situation." Improvements would begin following the approval of the zoning text amendment, which would change the zoning regulations for the site from 10FAR to 12FAR, which would allow for an additional rear yard and floor area. According to the representatives from Memorial Sloan Kettering, 12FAR may be larger than the intended zoning of the area, but it is smaller than most hospitals. But many of the community members came out to show their support for the trade-off: a renovation of the Andrew Haswell Park. "The problems associated with construction are temporary, but this park will continue to provide pleasant surroundings now and in the future," said Elizabeth McKracken, a community resident. At the same, time, many community members who live in the East 70s and are directly affected by the building of the cancer treatment center, do not think this is a fair trade-off, because the park is located by the 59th Street Bridge. With so much debate, the actual vote was split, with 12 community board members voting yes on the zoning text amendment, 6 voting against it and 1 abstention. The community board has until May 25th to make a decision to either support the project or not.

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