A recent legal challenge to stop the New York Blood Center (NYBC) tower was dismissed this week by a state supreme court judge. The conclusion of this latest chapter in the saga removes yet another impediment to what will almost certainly become a 230-foot life sciences hub in the middle of East 67th Street.
NYBC’s plan to build a 16-story scientific research and development facility in place of its current 90-year-old, four-story structure has caused a lot of drama since the plans were announced last year. A rally was held in May 2021, groups opposed to the project argued against potential shadows, and a city council tradition upheld for over 20 years ended.
Despite these challenges, the construction proposal ultimately won the approval of the New York City Council by a 43 to 5 vote in November 2021 and construction at 310 East 67th Street was expected to start as early as this year.
However, a neighboring condominium at 301 East 66th Street filed its petition challenging the “arbitrary and capricious approval of [the] rezoning application” in the State’s supreme court on March 22. The City of New York, the New York City Department of City Planning, City Planning Commission, New York City Council, and NYBC were all named as defendants.
A volley of legal filings between the two sides followed. The condo’s position was deeply rooted in the potential consequences of an accidental release of pathogens into the neighboring community and that NYBC, a nonprofit organization, sought to capitalize financially for its for-profit partner.
“In opposition, the City Respondents contend that the petition should be denied and that the various city agencies properly considered the environmental impacts in accordance with CEQR and SEQRA. With respect to the purported “reasonably foreseeable catastrophic impact” of operating a lab with dangerous substances, they claim that the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) was not required to assess every conceivable thing that could go wrong at a lab. They insist that the lab will be governed by the same federal, state, and local regulations that apply the current lab operated by NYBC,” according to the court’s August 22 order.
In the end, the order penned by Judge Arlene P. Bluth made it clear that the NYBC tower will rise. The court found that the condo did not meet its burden to demonstrate that the prior approvals for the tower should have been annulled. Conversely, it did find that the City’s ultimate approval for the tower appropriately considered the environmental impacts encompassed in the construction.
Notably, Judge Bluth’s decision indicates that the project is expected to take four years to complete. However, she believes that the community will benefit in the long run.
“There is no doubt that this project will be annoying to neighbors during the four years of construction and, because it is going from three to sixteen stories, it may negatively impact neighbors’ views. But there is also no doubt that the facility, once finished, will benefit the community.”