City council approves Sloan-Kettering plan

City council approves Sloan-Kettering plan – Brief Article

Parke Chapman

Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Upper East Side expansion plans were approved by the City Council last week, and few bureaucratic hurdles remain.

Neighbors opposed to the proposal have dogged M S-K for months, but they failed to besiege the project. Now the City Planning Commission must approve the City Council’s amendments to the proposal.

Opponents of the project reacted with scorn, naturally, but were not in the main shocked at the outcome.

“This is a disgrace. The city violated the law. It is a terrible thing for the city,” said an emotional Joel Ross, who lives in a tall apartment building overlooking the site.

Ross led the charge against M S-K, arguing that it is was too large and had the potential to emit toxic fumes from its research labs. Ross and his allies referred to the facility that M S-K envisioned as a “biotech” lab, a label that M S-K ardently denied.

He even drafted an elaborate proposal offering reasons why the hospital should develop a new facility elsewhere.

Despite City Planning Commission chairman Joseph Rose’s statement that it was a “ludicrous concern,” Ross maintained that by granting M S-K’s rezoning request, other institutions would follow suit.

Reports indicate that several other Upper East Side institutions would like to expand their operations. Whether or not this development will turn the Upper East Side into one huge hospital remains to be seen. In one sense, however, it is already a neighborhood of hospitals.

“The City Council imposed a few modifications to our original plan. But we are gratified by the way that the City Council ran the process,” said Avice Meehan, a spokeswoman for M S-K.

Meehan, who lives in the neighborhood, said that “this is a very important application,” but the opposition demanded all along that “nothing happens here at all.”

“It’s a complex application, as it should be,” she said.

M SK’s lead attorney, Shelly Friedman, summed up the opposition as being “all about emotion.”

“These folks are so at war, they just don’t care,” he said, calling their anger “palpable.”

“This is like a barroom brawl. My job is to get these institutions through the room from one door to the other. I make sure that they sustain as little damage as possible,” said Friedman.

Friedman, a partner at Friedman & Gotbaum, has carved a niche out for himself by defending prominent institutions with expansion plans. He is currently working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art on their expansion proposal.

“Everybody got beat up here,” he said.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Hagedorn Publication

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group