Representatives from Jewish Home Lifecare, an organization that provides health care for seniors, met with community groups on Aug. 12 to unveil a proposal to redevelop its West 106th Street nursing home in Park West Village, on West 100th Street.
To bankroll the new nursing home, a project that has long been in the works and was originally planned for the south side of West 106th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, Jewish Home was going to sell part of its property to a developer. But with the economy faltering and developers reluctant to buy, the only offer came from Joe Chetrit, who has taken community heat for his Columbus Square project, consisting of five luxury rentals and retail space at Park West Village.
In the deal, Chetrit will own Jewish Home’s current property, at 120 W. 106th St. Jewish Home will then build its proposed 22-story nursing home on top of land that was to be used for 180 parking spaces, on West 100th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues. Those spots will be moved to an indoor parking area without an increase in rates for owners. Newly built park space, gardens, outdoor seating and an indoor auditorium for the nursing home residents will also be open to Park West Village residents.
“Relocating to West 100th Street will have a net positive impact on Jewish Home’s Upper West Side clients, family members, employees and neighbors,” said Bruce Nathanson, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Jewish Home Lifecare.
By building a new facility elsewhere, Jewish Home can continue to operate at full capacity without staff layoffs and construction disruptions for its residents.
However, community groups fear that Chetrit will build a massive luxury tower on Jewish Home’s West 106th Street property because of the 2007 Upper West Side rezoning plan.
That year, Jewish Home collaborated with community groups in a deal with the City Council that carved the nonprofit’s parcel out of the 51-block Upper West Side rezoning plan, which drastically reduced neighborhood building heights. The concession was meant to allow the nursing home to rebuild a larger, state-of-the-art facility that could update the service provided to clients.
“We had a whole deal and process. We spent a long time putting it together,” said Blanca Vazquez, co-coordinator of the Manhattan Valley Preservation Coalition, which worked on the 2007 zoning compromise. “And now, everything is out the window and up in the air.”
Vazquez said the group was upset by the deal because the exemption was based on Jewish Home’s goodwill with the neighborhood and the promise of a community facility.
“This is not a simple swap or trade,” Vazquez said. “They made a commitment to community use.”
Although Jewish Home’s nursing home will now be located elsewhere, Chetrit will still be allowed to build tall, market-rate residential towers without zoning restrictions, per the 2007 agreement.
Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, who opposed Jewish Home’s exclusion from the rezoning plan, said he was troubled by the new proposal.
“The City Council carved out an exception for that site on West 106th Street because it was to be used for health care facility,” O’Donnell said. “Now, that exception seems to be used for a for-profit housing developer. It’s changing the rules in the middle of the game.”
O’Donnell is calling on the Council to have Jewish Home’s West 106th Street property conform to surrounding zoning.
“If someone wants to build a for-profit development, they should build within the context [of the neighborhood],” O’Donnell said.
Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district covers Jewish Home’s West 106th Street property and Park West Village, said she will start to remove all zoning exemptions for the property that were enacted during the 2007 rezoning process. One option is to submit a new land-use application.
On Aug. 15, Mark-Viverito held a rally blasting the deal with O’Donnell, State Sen. Bill Perkins, Council Member Inez Dickens and two district leaders from the Three Parks Independent Democratic Club.
“No for-profit bad actor should benefit from an exemption that was made solely to allow Jewish Home and Hospital to build a state-of-the-art skilled nursing facility,” Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “This recent development defies everything we have been working towards during the past two years.”
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