Coalition calls on city to back 600,000 s/f Upper East Side life science campus plan

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A coalition of labor and community organizations is urging Ben Kallos and the New York City Council to support New York Blood Center’s proposed rezoning that would enable the creation of Center East, a new life sciences hub in the heart of the city’s health care corridor.

In a letter to Kallos and the City Council, the coalition says Center East will create thousands of good-paying jobs and save lives, “while advancing racial and economic integration in one of the most segregated neighborhoods of our city. Indeed, this development will improve the health, economic prospects, and career options for many struggling and disadvantaged members of our communities, while making New York City a leader in the life sciences industry.”

The coalition represents many thousands of New Yorkers, and includes the following organizations: Laborers’ Local 79; Greater New York LECET (Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust); Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York; Urban Upbound; Community Voices Heard, Baruch Computing and Technology Center; and The Knowledge House.

They note in their letter to Kallos and the City Council today that “community and grassroots support for Center East is broader and more diverse than the narrow opposition to the project,” which comes from a small group of wealthy, white residents of the Upper East Side.

“We urge Ben Kallos and his colleagues in the City Council to support the rezoning of the New York Blood Center and the creation of the Center East facility. Our entire city will benefit from the thousands of good-paying jobs, life-saving cures, and treatments that the life sciences industry will create at Center East. In the years ahead, the growth of the life sciences industry can help lift many low-income New Yorkers of color into the middle class, while saving lives. We can’t let a small group of selfish residents stand in the way of this vital industry and send these good-paying jobs to other cities. The New York Blood Center has not only committed to building Center East with union labor, but is actively working with local education workforce organizations to ensure Black and Latino New Yorkers are trained and recruited for careers in the life sciences sector,” said Chaz Rynkiewicz, Assistant Business Manager and Vice President, Laborers’ Local 79.

If approved by the City Council, Center East will create over 1,500 construction jobs, and is projected to have more than 2,600 permanent, full-time jobs, along with an additional 3,000 indirect and induced jobs off-site.  Medical and clinical lab jobs that only require a bachelors’ degree will be among the most in-demand jobs in life sciences over the next decade.

New York Blood Center (NYBC) and Longfellow Real Estate Partners, the project’s developer, have committed to inclusive development and using union labor for the construction of Center East. They have also committed to ensuring the project continues to deliver for local communities through Center East Impact, a life science careers pipeline program that will connect young professionals with internships and a variety of educational and workforce opportunities within the new campus.

NYBC partnered with Longfellow on the venture to transform its East 67th Street headquarters into a 16-story, 600,000 s/f life science campus in place of its existing facility. However, the project has seen opposition from the local community which has criticized its height and residential to commercial zoning it would require.

Among the loudest voices against the plan is Council member Kallos, who told the City Planning Commission over the summer, “The New York Blood Center has been seeking to build a tall tower for as long as I can remember, for my entire career in politics, back to when I first started in 2006 on Community Board 8, and again in 2016. At every stage, their aggressive proposals have been rejected by elected officials and the local community.”

Kallos said that the community doesn’t have a problem with expansion within current zoning, which would permit expanding the current three-story building to seven stories.

He added, “What the community objects to along with Community Board 8, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright is the conversion of half a residential block to commercial and the proposed 260 ft. ower above what could be built as of right for no more than using zoning to print money for an institution though worthy doesn’t need it.”

Rendering top by DBOX/ENNEAD ARCHITECTS

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