Jewish Home Lifecare has received approval from the New York City Planning Commission to build a new, high-rise nursing home on Manhattan’s West 97th Street overcoming a major hurdle to the project.
Better known to New Yorkers as the Jewish Home and Hospital, its former name, the agency is planning to close its current nursing home in the borough, an outmoded, inefficient facility on West 106th Street, and relocate the operation in a new, 20-story high-rise by the spring of 2017.
But the agency ran into neighborhood opposition, much of it from residents of Park West Village, a complex of buildings surrounding the site.
Opponents of the project have contended that a building on the site, now a parking lot for about 20 cars, would worsen traffic congestion in an already overbuilt neighborhood, raise noise levels and even jeopardize the safety of children whose elementary school borders the lot.
They brought their objections to the area’s community board, which passed a resolution in February claiming that the project would create a “scarcity of land” for other community organizations — a move that threw the agency’s plans into the hands of the Planning Commission.
Had the commission agreed with that finding, JHL would have faced a full-blown land review, a costly, time-consuming process that might have stretched for years and would have required input not only from the Planning Commission and community board, but also from the borough president and City Council. But the commission voted overwhelmingly March 26 — 11 to 0, with one abstention — to reject the community board’s finding, allowing JHL to build on the site.
“The issue is now put to rest permanently and definitively,” said Ethan Geto, JHL’s spokesman, “and we proceed with our project.”
While the chairman of the community board doesn’t call the project a fait accompli, he described the commission’s action as a victory for JHL. “It’s obviously a significant move forward for Jewish Home Lifecare,” said Mark Diller. “Whether it gets them all the way home, I’m not competent to tell you that.”
An agency of UJA-Federation of New York, JHL actually needs two additional documents before it begins construction, Geto said — a foundation, or construction, permit from the city’s Department of Buildings and a certificate of need from the state’s Department of Health. The certificate of need, required for any proposed hospital, nursing home or medical facility, simply states that there’s a need for the facility or additional beds in the area.
Geto said the agency expects to begin construction on the site in early 2014, after raising money for the new project and completing designs for the space. The project will follow the model established by the Green House Project, a national effort to de-institutionalize nursing homes and make them more homelike.
JHL also hopes to put together a community advisory board for the project, as it promised neighbors of the site, Geto said. The advisory board would make recommendations to the agency regarding construction, he added, and the agency, in turn, would “strive to accommodate as many of the community’s concerns as we can.”