Milkman’s Matinee Edition By John F. Bailey, Filed 3/5/02, 5:00 AM EST: The Common Council closed the Draft Environmental Impact Statement hearing on the New York Presbyterian Hospital at midnight Monday evening after listening to four hours opposition to the project, with just three speakers of approximately 26, in favor of the project. This was in contrast to the previous February 4 hearing when sentiments were evenly divided.
The public still has until 5:00 PM, March 22nd to submit its comments to the City Clerk’s office, with a copy to the Common Council, to add its comments to be answered on the Final Environmental Impact Statement.
The hospital has 45 days to submit a FEIS answering the volumes of questions raised by some 51 voices (some of whom have spoken two and three times on the bio-medical facility proposal the hospital is seeking a Special Permit to build on its property). Technically the 45 days runs until April 18 when the hospital has to file the FEIS.
Hearing on the Special Permit is next at April 1, Council Meeting.
However, according to the Planning Department “Environmental Review Timeline” “if it is determined that additional time is necessary to prepare the statement adequately; or if problems with the proposed action requiring material reconsideration or modification have been identified,” additional weeks may be added to FEIS preparation or revision time.
These two SEQR regulations appear the basis for the mantra which Concerned Citizens for Open Space President, Allan Teck , urged the council to fellow during the eveing: keep rejecting the FEIS virtually to infinity if they want.
Countdown to approval or denial has started.
With the vote to close the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Council started the machinery to a decision on this decade’s New York Presbyterian Hospital proposal. When the FEIS is filed, (due by April 18), the Lead Agency (Common Council) has 10 calendar days for “consideration” of the FEIS, mad are required to “act on and file” a written Findings Statement and make a decision on the action within 30 calendar days after the filing of the FEIS, which if no further time relief is granted for preparation of the FEIS (which is very likely), pursuant to the regulations mentioned previously in this article.
A list of the questions rose by the DEIS hearing just concluded will be submitted to the hospital and the preparation of the FEIS begins. There is likelihood, however that the Special Permit hearing could remain open beyond April 1, or that the hospital may request additional time to prepare the FEIS. Or, more likely the Common Council may even request more time.
At this point it appears that a vote may be taken on the proposal in June or late July, almost two years to the month when the previous proposal, Plan A, was not referred out to departments by the Common Council, barring an unforeseen settlement or agreement.
Boykin reveals that the hospital has approached him on private hearings
Benjamin Boykin, asked about whether private meetings with the hospital to discuss the location of the biomedical facility on the property are in play, revealed that he had been invited to participate by the hospital, but had to this point declined to participate.
Boykin also said he would not participate as of last night. He felt he did not need to. Mr. Greer, Mr. Roach, and two possible sixth councilpersons, Larry Delgado and Glen Hockley have participated in such private discussions, according to Mr. Greer.
CCOS reports raising $12,000 to fight the proposal.
Allan Teck told WPCNR that a fundraising mailing sent by Concerned Citizens for Open Space last month cost them $600 to mail, and has so far raised $12,000. He declined to specify how many had contributed, saying it was more than 100 persons. WPCNR has learned that Arnold & Porter, the city’s environmental lawyer has charged $150,000 in legal fees so far, which will be paid by New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Laundry list of complaints center on traffic, safety, environmental concerns, quality of life, need for proton accelerator.
Resident after resident complained both rationally and irrationally on concerns they felt the Hospital failed to answer in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Allan Teck painted the picture of terrorists attacking the proton accelerator facility, exposing radiation to residents. He also called for soil analysis to determine if the proton accelerator would sink into the alleged swampy Hospital area, and leak radiation into the water supply.
Doctor not impressed with proton accelerator.
A retired surgeon in White Plains, downplayed the role of the proton accelerator in the treatment of cancer. He said controls did not exist in clinical trials of the proton accelerator in the treatment of prostate cancer, and that it had very limited use, limited to tumors of the eye and spinal cord.
He cited a Dr. Luther Brady at Philadelphia General Hospital, a cancer expert, involved with the proton accelerator, who told him this information.
What the White Plains surgeon failed to mention is that it is very difficult to get a person dying of cancer to agree to be a “control.” The “control” is the person(s) who does (do) not get the treatment that may not cure them as efficiently as the proton accelerator. The surgeon later told WPCNR he did not feel that Brady was against the proton accelerator or that East Coast surgeons were against the treatment. He had no insight as to why the technique was not more widely used here in the East, other than what Brady had said.
Not the first time, accelerator “dissed.”
Lack of clinical trials is the chief argument WPCNR has learned the medical establishment has used against adoption and, more importantly, recommendation of proton accelerator technology. East Coast oncologists and radiologists earn good livings off surgical, invasive removal of cancerous tumors and invasive radiation treatments for prostate cancer that are not as precise as the proton accelerator.
The more WPCNR has learned of the proton accelerator politics, the more we have noted the mysterious reluctance of East Coast physicians to recommend the treatment, which is disturbing to this reporter. Eighty percent of patients at Loma Linda are self-referred.
Another case uncovered.
Last evening a flamboyant personality at the meeting, requesting anonymity, revealed to WPCNR that his brother has prostate cancer. He has urged his brother to go to Loma Linda, California to explore proton accelerator treatment. His brother met with a doctor at Loma Lind, however his doctors in Florida, refused to release his medical records to the Loma Linda physician.
The Florida specialists proceeded to talk the brother into having a more traditional procedure instead of the proton therapy. The jury is still out on the brother who has had the more invasive procedure. We will see if it works.
This is the second such case WPCNR has learned, where Eastern cancer specialists have gone out of their way to veto proton accelerator treatment. In one case, a surgeon himself, found even Johns Hopkins in Baltimore did not know of the proton accelerator.
He found this hard to believe. He was advised against the treatment by Johns Hopkins. He was impressed however and opted for proton therapy treatment. He is now cured. This case was documented at an early Common Council meeting on the accelerator.
Greed called hospital motive
A thoracic surgeon criticized the hospital for being motivated primarily by greed in pushing for the biomedical research facility, saying it was part of a plan simply to conglomerate health care and monopolize it in the area. He cited a recent article in a medical journal detailing the financial management of the two hospitals and their acquisitions of competing hospitals as evidence for this.
He did not mention that biotech has been prominently pushed by New York State over the last four years. He did not say the Empire State Development Corporation had handpicked the medical schools of Columbia and Cornell and the New York Presbyterian Hospital property in particular for the site of the proton accelerator. He did not mention that Governor Pataki’s office envisioned the medical schools helping to make New York State competitive with other biotech centers in the country.
Scientist Researcher questions deep pockets of workers/ too much “hot” garbage.
Rosemary Hicks, a scientist-researcher herself played on the greed angle. She said the facility had to be commercial since it did not call for extensive residential development on a scale with her employer, Albert Einstein Hospital.
Without residential, she said the facility had to be commercial. She also said that the math did not indicate high enough salaries to support economic windfall from the disposable income of potential new employees.
She painted a grim picture of the massive waste created by research labs where she works, and noted a number of possible biotech threats that have taken place recently.
Just three favor project last night.
Jeffrey Binder, representing Responsible Growth Association of Westchester, which has as member-firms, Cappelli Enterprises, Clayton Park Development, LCOR and JPI, all of whom have projects under way in White Plains, stressed the jobs and payroll the project would bring to Westchester County.
Binder said the new project would employ 958 new positions with payrolls estimated to be $35 million, for a total on-site payroll of $64 million. Responsible Growth Association of Westchester feels 25%, or about 250 new residents will be brought to White Plains to populate the new apartment units in downtown White Plains.
Binder also said 450 construction jobs would be created. Office occupancy outside the hospital would be filled. He said it would be “creating competitive advantage for Westchester to attract companies to the I-287 corridor.” He gave the opinion that the “project is a response to the City’s Comprehensive Plan goal to expand medical sector activities along Bloomingdale Road.”
Masback, former Councilman supports project
Harold Masback, a former Councilman, was the second strong advocate for the project. Masback, recalling his days on the Common Council, said that every project he can ever remember has been opposed because of the problems it would cause with traffic.
He said the current situation the Council finds itself in stemmed directly from their refusal to refer out the hospital’s Plan A back in January, 2000. He also said when he drives through White Plains, he never sees “any traffic.” When he sees cars stopped at traffic lights, he says he ‘thanks our lucky stars they are in White Plains.” Masback warned that the park envisioned on the hospital property would create the need for extensive parking since the location is by no means centrally located in White Plains.
A third contractor who built biotech centers stressed that building the center would spur new construction of facilities that would build on the availability of a first biotech center at the NYPH campus.
Traffic, construction main points of contention.
However, there were plenty of persons who spent extensive time on traffic worries, many speaking for well beyond the five minute limit requested by Mayor Delfino.
Allan Teck said the traffic study in the DEIS did not take into account extensive Thanksgiving and holiday traffic where he said 35,000 cars would visit the area around Bloomingdale Road once Fortunoff and the new Stop N Shop were in place, but he constructed the figures himself.
Another Bryant Avenue resident, Amy Barish, who wrote WPCNR, pointed out the noise of construction among other concerns was a threat to environmental quality. She said the pedestrian traffic from the schools had to be considered, and that the traffic studies were not done around the holidays and other peak traffic times.
Zoning Zoning Zoning.
Citizen zoning experts stressed to the council that the hospital had to provide more detail on what types of firms would be moving into the proposed biotech buildings, and that if the firms, or research partners, were profit-oriented, a zoning change to “commercial” was called for to make the project acceptable. These advocates included John Sheehan, Rosemary Hicks, Lewis Trippett, and Joe Farber.
Doris Simon pointed out that when residents in her neighborhood on Richbell Drive wanted to keep chickens and when she wanted to keep a pony, the city refused to allow her to do so because it was against zoning. She felt the hospital should be no exception. Another resident complained that overcrowding the hospital site was like overcrowding in the Bronx Zoo, that it did not work, and that the newer, looser natural habitats were better for the animals. The rights of the council to uphold zoning were referred to time and again.
Farber suggested that the Common Council not be afraid to ask the legislature to overturn the law cited by Arnold & Porter where the state upheld the hospital’s freedom from eminent domain. Edward Dunphy, Corporation Counsel, observing the proceedings on television in the Mayor’s conference room was asked by WPCNR, whether he would consider going to the legislature to ask them to repeal that decision. Dunphy, grinning widely, asked if I was prepared to go up and appeal with him. We interpreted this to mean “no, he would not.”
Sharp exchange between William King and the Mayor.
The most unpleasant interlude of the night occurred when Councilman William King aggressively asked for the DEIS hearing to be kept open because he had not had time to read the Planning Department statement on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. That statement prepared by Susan Habel and Rod Johnson, Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners of Planning was released to the Common Council very late last Thursday afternoon.
King said it was “irresponsible to close the public hearing.” He sharply criticized the city’s Traffic Department for writing only a one-page analysis of the traffic. He said “C’mon guys!” in rebuking the sparseness of the city traffic department’s analysis. Mayor Delfino said if it were up to Councilman King, the DEIS Hearing would never be closed, because he’d send 15 e-mails a day about it.
King bristled about this, saying, “I don’t send 50 e-mails a day.” The Mayor corrected King saying he said “15” not “50,” and that he did not care to hear any more discussion on the matter. King, visibly smoldering, bowed his head and stared in front of him, head down the rest of the meeting.
The Gladiator as Peacemaker
Robert Greer, moved quickly to diffuse the situation, soothing Mr. King, by saying, “This is all of a process. The ball is in the Hospital’s court (by closing the hearing).”
Mrs. Malmud, eager to close the hearing, said that this moves the process along to the FEIS stage: “I agree with Mr. King. We need answers and the easiest way to get them is to close the hearing and move on to the next step. (The FEIS).”
With this the motion to close the DEIS hearing was made, seconded, and passed 5-1, with Mr. King voting against the motion to close.
Mrs. Malmud said she was very proud of White Plains citizens for their participation in the process, and for all their e-mails on the project. Mr. Roach said, he was impressed with the “excellent” comments the citizens had made.
Good news. The jut outs will be saved.
In an anticlimactic exchange the streetscapes project was moved along after a brief presentation by Susan F. Habel, Commissioner of Planning. She assured Rita Malmud that the jut outs or “Promenade Gardens” as the Beautification Council insists they should be called, would remain part of the city scope.
Habel said that five of the jut outs would be slightly redesigned to permit “drop-off parking,” at key locations. She advised that bricked crosswalks would be installed from Main Street to Maple Avenue intersections, and that the planters on the Promenade Gardens would be lowered and redesigned with custom flower bed arrangements and plantings.
Rita Malmud ended the meeting on a note of optimism saying, “the jut outs will remain.” Mrs. Habel assured her they would.
The meeting adjourned, to be resumed Thursday morning at 8:30 AM, when the second reading of the ordinances would take place.