FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joel Kupferman, Esq. 917-414-1983 / joel@nyenvirolaw.org
Martin Rosenblatt 212-677-7729 / martinrosenblatt@hotmail.com

UPPER WEST SIDE RESIDENTS SUE NEW YORK STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT TO PREVENT APPROVAL OF NURSING HOME CONSTRUCTION ON TOXIC SITE
(April 13, 2015, NYC)

Nine residents of the Park West Village neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan have filed a lawsuit against the New York State Health Department to prevent it from giving approval to Jewish Home Lifecare (JHL) to construct a twenty-story nursing home on a parking lot on West 97th Street. The lawsuit challenges the Department’s handling of a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) proceeding, which was initiated after significant amounts of lead and other toxins were found at the proposed site.

The petitioners include two mothers, their minor children, six senior citizens, and other residents of the Park West Village neighborhood who live in buildings adjacent to the proposed site and will be exposed to toxic dust, excessive noise, and delayed emergency responses if the proposed project is allowed to move forward. Many of the petitioners have health conditions that will be harmed by the release of lead and other toxins from the proposed construction site, which also abuts elementary school P.S. 163.

The lawsuit was filed on April 9, 2015, in the New York County Supreme Court by Joel Kupferman, a highly regarded environmental attorney and Executive Director of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project. The suit seeks an order vacating the environmental review conducted by the New York State Health Department, and an injunction against the Department to prevent it from granting any approval for the proposed project until the State has complied with the requirements of the SEQR law and the Public Health Law. The suit contends that the Department failed to comply with the law by not taking a “hard look” at the environmental dangers posed by the project, and by not presenting a “reasoned elaboration” for its conclusions regarding environmental impacts, mitigation measures, and feasible alternatives. The suit claims that the Department failed to apply measures to prevent harm from a project that should not have been treated as a typical construction project, but rather as a project involving significant contamination issues and intrusion upon very close sensitive receptors.

Kupferman said, “This community with a long history of exposure to dust, lead, and other toxins, have earned a healthy skepticism of questionable assurances that imminent exposure that is posed from a major construction project will be controlled.”

The suit also states that the State failed to take a hard look at the fact that Jewish Home Lifecare had received approval from the State Health Department in 2008 to construct a new facility at its existing location on West 106th Street, and that Jewish Home Lifecare claimed that the 106th Street project was designed to apply best practices from the “Green House” model and other innovative models that would provide significant improvements in the quality of life of the residents. In direct contrast, the so-called “Green House” proposed for West 97th Street would diminish quality of life by relegating mobility challenged nursing home residents to high floors of a twenty-story tower, and would be difficult to evacuate in the event of a fire or natural disaster like hurricanes Irene or Sandy.