Last week, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the Upper East Side will soon be home to a brand-new building housing a brand-new partnership of city institutions. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the City University of New York’s Hunter College will be teaming up to construct a connected science facility on East 73rd Street, on what is now city-owned property. At this month’s Community Board 8 meeting, officials from both MSK and CUNY presented the project to the board for the first time, soliciting ongoing community input.
Iris Weinshall, CUNY’s vice chancellor of facilities planning, explained that the new facility will replace two buildings that currently house Hunter’s science programs, citing the master plan that CUNY developed for Hunter in 1999.
“The master plan found the current science facilities, both at Hunter’s main campus and their Brookdale campus, were outdated and inefficient, and would be costly to modernize due to the age of the buildings,” Weinshall said. She also noted that the Brookdale campus, located on East 25th Street and First Avenue, is disconnected from the other science and main buildings of Hunter, a problem that the new building will rectify.
“This new science building would replace obsolete labs and classrooms and be within walking distance from the main campus,” Weinshall said. Hunter’s portion of the facility, which will occupy about 40 percent of the western side of the building, will house space for nursing, physical therapy, chemistry, biology, psychology, physics and astronomy programs, with research labs and lecture halls.
The school will also benefit from the proximity to a top-notch cancer center. “Hunter’s nurses and researchers will have the opportunity to develop new collaborations and expand on existing ones with Memorial Sloan-Kettering, an institution with an inspiring and crucial mission,” Weinshall said.
John Gunn, executive vice president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, said that the partnership will benefit the cancer center as well.
“A hospital like ours that uses leading edge technology in the treatment of cancer is more than simply the best physicians in the building,” Gunn said. “A quality hospital requires well-trained nurses, technicians, researchers and clinicians who are able to collaborate efficiently on behalf of their patients.”
The MSK facility will be an ambulatory outpatient care center that will aim to reduce the time cancer patients spend in the hospital. It will treat lung, head and neck and hematological (blood) cancers.
Todd Schliemann of Ennead Architects, which has designed the building in partnership with Perkins Eastman, presented the preliminary architectural plans to the board, showing how the building will be integrated into the block. The property is bounded by East 74th and 73rd streets to the north and south, and FDR Drive and York Avenue on the east and west.
“What we have tried to do is to break down the massing of the building into eight-story elements so that we can reduce its bulk, create enough setbacks along 74th and 73rd so that we can fit the building into the neighborhood,” Schliemann said. “We believe it’s an institutional building, so we have tried to give it a dignified and institutional character.”
The proposed building’s façade would be a combination of glass and masonry, and would include a number of outdoor terraces cut into the building. The CUNY side will be 16 stories above grade, including a covered penthouse for the rooftop mechanicals, and the MSK side will be 21 stories.
While this first presentation doesn’t merit a formal response from the Community Board, several members expressed their concern that the project will take traffic patterns and light and air for the neighborhood into account as it moves forward. The board will have a chance to make official comments and must approve the project’s forthcoming ULURP application, which is expected to come through sometime in 2013.
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