Say No to the Blood Center Longfellow Tower
The Blood Center’s “life science” justification for the tower consists of three separate arguments. Like a three-legged stool, if one leg is broken, then the stool won’t stand. In the case of the Blood Center, all three legs of the stool are broken, thus demanding that the project application be rejected.
- First, the Blood Center claims the Tower is essential for its mission of supplying most of the Blood to the City’s hospitals. That is patently false. The financial statements of the Blood Center reveal that 97% of the Blood Center’s operations consist of collecting and distributing blood and transfusion products. The site on East 67th Street in one of approximately twenty permanent blood donation locations for the New York Blood Center, but most of the blood collected by NYBC is done at the more than 10,000 blood drives they conduct each year throughout the metropolitan area. Thus, the East 67th St. site is responsible for an almost negligible percentage of the blood collected annually by the NYBC. And as to the supplying of Blood to hospitals, that comes primarily from the Blood Center’s site in Long Island City and several other remote locations, but none from the East 67th St. site. And the President of the Blood Center admitted at the recent hearing of the City Council Zoning Subcommittee that the transfusion products all come from Rhode Island. Accordingly, the site on East 67th Street is effectively irrelevant to the Blood Center’s core mission.
- The Blood Center then states that its researchers, who represent less than 3% of the Blood Center’s operations, conduct substantial research with the three neighboring world class research institutions, namely, Weill Cornell, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and Rockefeller University, and that these collaborating researchers need to be in “close physical proximity” of one another. Testimony at the Community Board 8 hearings disclosed that only approximately 2% of the research conducted by the Blood Center’s researchers is done exclusively with those three neighboring institutions, and that the Blood Center does more collaboration with researchers in China than with those three neighboring institutions combined, as well as with researchers in more than twenty other states and more than a dozen other foreign countries. Further, the former director of the National Institute of Health and the director of research for the Mayo Clinic sent letters to MBP Gale Brewer and the Community Board stated that close physical proximity is not needed for collaborating researchers. And, finally, construction of the proposed Tower would take (best case) five years, during which the Blood Centers researchers would have to relocate, conclusively confirming that they do not need close physical proximity with those three neighboring institutions.
- Finally, the Blood Center states that the proposed Tower is needed to give those three neighboring world-class institutions a “unique opportunity” to participate in the City’s life science ecosystem. First, it should be obvious how preposterous it is to claim that institutions like Rockefeller University, universally acknowledged to be the top medical and science research center in the world, and Memorial Sloan Kettering and Weill Cornell, two of the top hospitals in the country, need the Blood Center’s tower to participate in the City’s life science ecosystem. And clearly, if they did require, or even say any benefit to them from the proposed Tower, they would be testifying in support of the Blood Center project. But none of them have, and that silence is deafening. In fact, in a recent webinar, Dr. Richard Lifton, the President of Rockefeller Center was asked about life science activity on the Upper East Side, and he spoke for more than seven minutes, never once mentioning the Blood Center, but when the moderator followed up with a question about the Blood Center project, rather than saying that Rockefeller University was in support, instead said that in order for the project to move forward, it needs the support of the community and the local elected officials. The Blood Center has neither, indeed, not even close! All the local elected officials – Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, State Assembly Representative Rebecca Seawright, and Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers are adamantly opposed to the Blood Center Project. And Community Board 8 unanimously opposed the Blood Center project, the first time in anyone’s memory that the Community Board voted unanimously against a development project, with even the Boards strongest pro-development member stating, “this project makes no sense, voting no was an easy decision.”
The Blood Center is making all these arguments to hide the fact that the proposed massive (floor plate larger than the Empire State Building), 285-foot, mid-block tower is really for the benefit of Longfellow Real Estate, a Boston developer that will own more than two thirds of the tower, which space it will rent out to commercial tenants for profit. But all the arguments put forth by the Blood Center to justify the Longfellow tower simply do not hold water.
Looking at the adverse impact of the proposed project – violating more than thirty-five years of preservation of contextual zoning on residential mid-blocks, casting perpetual shadows on the Julia Richman Education Complex, a jewel of the City’s public education system, and on St. Catherine’s Park, the only open space north of the 59th Street Bridge and south of John Jay, between the River and Fifth Avenue, and the traffic congestion resulting from increasing the number of people going to this mid-block site on a narrow side street from the present 230 to more than a projected 2,630 – should require rejection of the Blood Center’s up-zoning application even if the Blood Center had a great justification for the propose project, though, in fact, it has none.
The words of the pro-development member of the Community Board bear repeating; the Blood Center’s proposed project makes no sense, voting no is an easy decision.
Martin Bell, Member, Coalition to Stop the Blood Center Tower.