CB8 Shoots Down Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Make text smaller Make text larger


Last week, representatives forMemorial Sloan-Kettering (MSK) made afinal plea to Community Board 8 askingfor their blessing on a variance request fortheir planned new cancer center on theUpper East Side. But much to the delightof many in attendance at the meeting, theboard voted not to approve the request,creating a bumpier road to ultimateapproval from the Board of Standardsand Appeals (BSA) for the hospital.

MSK purchased the lot on the cornerof York Avenue and East 61st Street in2008 and is now hoping to build a 15-storyoutpatient cancer surgery center there.They could build as-of-right without seekingany special exemptions in zoning, butthe hospital says that the current regulationscannot possibly accommodate thespecific needs of a surgery center. Theyare seeking variances to create a curb cutfor a patient drop-off and pick-up area,as well as to build fewer, wider stories toaccommodate surgical needs."This is really about building typology,"said Shelly Friedman, the land useattorney representing MSK, comparingthe proposal to existing hospitals in thearea, like Cornell.

Although MSK is technically claiminga hardship to the BSA in order toget the approval, something opponentshave mocked as absurd for such a largeinstitution with the money to begin newconstruction, Friedman insisted that it'sjust about what type of construction isfeasible on the site.While the zoning allows them to buildseveral stories below grade, Friedmansaid that the site is in a hurricane inundationzone and that ConEdison would notplace its equipment at any undergroundlevel, which is why they are looking tomake each story larger to make up for thelost square footage. It would also cost anadditional $12 million, MSK estimates, tobuild down into the type of soil there."If it was $5 million or $50 million, wewould be asking you for the same variances,"Friedman said.

Attorney Chris Wright, who representsthe co-op building at 440 E. 62nd St. thatis next door to the proposed site, providedrebuttals for almost all of Friedman'spoints, accusing MSK of changing itsstory and failing the "good faith test" ofbeing willing to sit down with the communityboard to consider alternate plans.Residents of the building have vehementlyopposed the plans, which will blockmuch of the air and light from their lot

line and regular windows.Friedman said that the reason MSKwouldn't negotiate is that there isn't reallyroom to compromise; they have statedthat they need a certain square footage oneach floor for operating space and thateven if the narrower as-of-right buildingwould allow for slightly more light andair to flow to 440 E. 62nd St., the hospital

couldn't work within those zoningrestrictions.

Cabot Marks, the president of the coopboard, also delivered an impassionedplea to the community board to reject theplans, pointing to giant slides showing a3-year-old girl playing happily in front ofa window that will eventually be blockedby the hospital building."I've not heard one proposal, one statement,one inch of concession or thought

about what would improve our communityor make this a little more palatable,"

said Marks.

Many board members were swayednot only by the plight of the building butby the ways the hospital will potentiallyimpact the entire neighborhood."I can't give the hospital what it wantsright now because they haven't beena good neighbor," said board member

Debbie Teitelbaum.The board voted 14 in favor of approvingthe variances, 25 against and oneabstention as residents of 440 E. 62nd St.erupted into cheers. The hospital will gobefore the BSA on March 27 without thecommunity board's approval and with a

cadre of opponents sure to come protestthe variances again.

Make text smaller Make text larger




Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters