WPCNR Common Council Chronicle-Examiner. By John F. Bailey. June 11, 2002. 12:02 A.M. E.D.T.: Susan Habel, Commissioner of Planning, put on her master builder’s hat Monday evening and presented her concept of how New York Presbyterian Hospital could fit their planned biotech/proton accelerator complex into buildable areas in the historic district of their property.
SUSAN HABEL TO THE RESCUE: The Commissioner of Planning presents a plan that would fit new buildings into the historic districts on the New York Presbyterian Hospital property, at the third session of “The Gerard Talks” at City Hall Monday evening.
All Photos by WPCNR
This exercise was requested by Councilmembers Benjamin Boykin, Rita Malmud, Glen Hockley, and Tom Roach last Thursday.
The Hospital, to fit an equivalent amount of square footage into the historic district, would have to build 10 buildings instead of two. Michael Gerard said this violated the spirit of “practicable” environmental solutions.
Ms. Habel made the presentation at the third session of “The Gerard Talks,” the sessions scheduled by the Common Council with their environmental lawyer, Michael Gerard, to discuss legal issues involved in their acceptance of the NYPH Final Environmental Impact Statement.
The meeting adjourned to yet another Executive Session at 8:15 PM last night, where they were expected to ask for a one-week extension to accept and prepare their Acceptance of the Final Environmental Impact Statement until June 24. According to the SEQRA regulations, the Council must accept the FEIS by June 17, six days from now.
Habel Presents Her Own Site Plan for Historic District.
In a meeting where Michael Gerard had very little to say, Ms. Habel did most of the talking, showing the building footprints that could be accommodated under the exacting restrictions dictated by the State Historical Preservation Office.
The bottom line, according to Ms. Habel, who along with her Deputy Commissioner, Rod Johnson, and the Planning Department prepared a hypothetical Historic District Building Plan requested by the Council, over the last two working days, requires the hospital to build 10 buildings instead of two.
Gerard Advises Habel Plan Fails the “Practicality Test.”
Gerard after digesting Habel’s one-hour presentation, said that at the heart of the spirit of complying with the SEQRA statute was to form a mitigating course of action that was “practicable,” for the applicant, rather than dictating steps that were “physically possible”
His statement was meet with a very quiet silence by the council.
Gerard Dismisses Conservation Board Concern on Contiminating Water with Soil Runoff.
Mr. Gerard was asked by Councilman Glen Hockley about the Conservation Board letter worrying about possible contimination of Cassaway Brook with soil runoff, due to a reported high amount of mercury in the soil samples on Site 6.
Gerard dismissed this as not a problem as long as no construction was undertaken on site 6. He also pointed that the contiminant concentration in the soils were less than normal drinking water, and the mercury level was .1 above the level allowed for drinking water. Ms. Habel advised the Conservation Board got their letter in too late to be included in the original draft Final Environmental Impact Statement.
Mayor Delfino said, “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers (to Mr. Hockley), listen to him (Gerard), he’s getting the big bucks.”
Hockley Concerned About Solid Waste.
Mr. Hockley said he wanted to know how many more trucks and trips to transport solid waste out of the facilities would add to the impact of the site. Ms. Habel said this was addressed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Boykin, Hockley Both Await Further Clarification on Research Being Conducted at Other Hospital Sites.
Ms. Habel stated that she was awaiting information from Cornell, Mount Sinai Hospital and NYU campuses on the nature of Safety Level 3 biotech research they were now working on. At this point, she said, she has heard from NYU that they were working with Turburculosis, their only Level 3 research on only 300 square feet. New York Presbyterian Hospital, she said, was working with only “a small amount of Level 3 research within their system and was going to get back with specifics, that it was not a major problem element.”
She said the hospital was doing a small amount of AIDS research, which she said was a Safety Level 2 concern, since it was not spread by inhaling. She expected more information on the kinds of research within the NYPH system by the end of the week.
More Time Needed.
Ms. Habel said that the Plannind Department needed approximately one week more beyond June 17 to marshall the material for the Acceptance of the FEIS.
The Council adjourned to Executive Session to consult with Mr. Gerard about the feasibility of extending the June 17 deadline.