Testimony of Nick Prigo before the
New York State Department of Health
Environmental Impact Statement Scoping Hearing for Jewish Home Lifecare’s Proposed Development on West 97th Street.
September 17, 2013

I appreciate your willingness to reschedule this important scoping hearing to accommodate the impacted residents and parents at PS 163. I look forward to a thorough and impartial Environmental Impact Statement as this project touches on so many aspects of life on the Upper West Side.

While I feel like I could comment on just about each of the 23 tasks in the Draft Scoping Document, I have attempted to limit myself to those I feel are the most important or may not get the required attention from others submitting testimony. My lack of specific comment on lead contamination and transportation is not meant to imply that those are not critical items, only that I feel they will be better addressed by others.

Below are my comments on how the Environmental Impact Statement can be strengthened. I speak as a leader in the community and currently serve as the co-chair of Community Board 7’s Housing Committee and as a Democratic District Leader for the 69th Assembly District, Part B, representing the proposed development site and much of Park West Village.

No Action Scenario
On page four in the No Action Scenario paragraph we are given two choices: 1) Action Scenario – The project moves forward and JHL builds on West 97th Street, or 2) No Action Scenario – JHL stays on 106th Street and “would continue to operate inefficiently, housed in outdated buildings with a physical plant in need of major infrastructure replacement.”

This No Action Scenario must be modified to reflect that JHL had already planned and initiated the approval process to construct a new building on their existing land on West 106th Street. The No Action Scenario should recognize that JHL staying at 106th Street is a significantly more viable alternative than the quoted section above indicates.

Task 22. Alternatives
Along the same line of reasoning as above, I urge you to use the construction of a new facility on JHL’s existing land on West 106th Street as the primary alternative in this analysis. This plot of land is seven times as large as the proposed project site on West 97th Street and does not have anywhere close to the level of traffic, congestion, or existing density that make the West 97th Street location such a poor choice for this project.

Task 3. Socioeconomic Conditions
As co-chair of the Housing Committee at CB7 I have had the opportunity to work closely on the preservation of affordable housing in the area most directly impacted by the proposal. These buildings house a sizable population of vulnerable low- and moderate income residents that are often aging in place.

An indirect residential displacement analysis is a must for this Environmental Impact Statement Referencing the CEQR Technical Manual for Task 3, it states that a “project may either introduce a trend or accelerate a trend of changing socioeconomic conditions that may potentially displace a vulnerable population.” Columbus Square, the new development along Columbus Avenue between West 97th and West 100th Streets, has already caused indirect residential displacement. This new project will further that trend, resulting in additional and accelerated displacement.

Task 19. Neighborhood Character
Massive development has already all but surround the three Park West Village rental buildings, significantly increasing density, changing the commercial profile of the area, adding vehicle and pedestrian congestion, and overall impacting the neighborhood’s character.

The Park West Village superblock was designed intentionally in the Towers-in-a-Park style during the 1950s “Urban Renewal” period. Density was intentionally shifted upward with ample open space provided at the edges. Much of this open space has already been lost, and this proposal will only accelerate this trend.

One of the weakness of this Towers-in-a-Park style of development is that it did not predict a future where there would be this continuous effort to keep chipping away at the open space to build new buildings. This encirclement is already mostly complete and has a devastating impact on the character of the neighborhood. This project will push this trend even further and must be clearly understood as part of the Environmental Impact Statement long before any development goes forward.

Respectfully submitted,

Nick Prigo
Democratic District Leader, 69th Assembly District, Part B
Co-Chair, Housing Committee, Community Board 7/Manhattan