The New York City Council gave its final stamp of approval for NYBC’s life sciences hub on East 67th Street on Tuesday. The much-debated New York Blood Center (NYBC) tower is now one step away from almost certain mayoral ratification.
NYBC’s plan to demolish its current 4-story, 90-year old building in favor of a 16-story scientific research and development facility has been met with backlash and protests. Upper East Side Council Member Ben Kallos railed against the proposed construction and vowed earlier this month to continue the fight against it.
Kallos’ main point of contention were the shadows the building would cast along East 67th Street. But he also complained about the project’s potential to wreak havoc on neighborhood traffic patterns, the noise the project would likely create, and that NYBC would use only five floors for its own purposes. In the last year, Kallos was backed by a number of community organizations and local leaders. However, the vast majority of council members were not persuaded.
The full council’s decision on November 23 bucked tradition for a second time in two weeks when it endorsed the project and did not support the local council member on land use matters. This break from tradition is highly unusual and had not occurred since 2009 before this month’s votes. Kallos feels this refusal to embrace custom shows that “local council members don’t matter anymore and can no longer represent their communities.”
Some Upper East Siders sought emergency relief in the form of a restraining order on Monday, November 22. A group of residents “filed a protest against the project — a seldom-used measure that would require approval from three-quarters of the Council, instead of a simple majority.” The judge was expected to rule after the council rendered its decision. However, it seems the application is now moot given the 43 to 5 vote, a margin of nearly 90%.
The plans approved by the council were scaled down from NYBC’s original blueprints. The tower will top out around 230 feet instead of the initial 334 feet. But, according to Patch, the final version did not include funding for neighborhood improvements.
The final say now rests in the hands of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Based on his prior endorsements of the project, it seems that this last step is a mere formality. According to Commercial Observer, construction could start as soon as next year and wrap up in 2025.