Petition Closed
Petitioning Governor, State of New York Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo and 2 others

Tell Governor Cuomo: West 97th St. Construction Requires Environmental Impact Study

We are parents and teachers of children attending Public School 163 on West 97th Street in Manhattan, and we are residents and elected representatives of the surrounding neighborhood. Together, we are a coalition of community stakeholders, nursing home advocates, tenants’ associations, and other concerned citizens.

Proposed Construction Site Has Toxic Levels of Lead

Construction of a 20-story nursing home is proposed to break ground next door to the 3-story P.S. 163. Despite the fact this construction would expose the school children to airborne lead and dust, along with excessive noise and potential construction equipment hazards, there has been no environmental impact assessment, nor is there a plan for one.

As citizens, and as your constituents, we call upon you, Governor Cuomo, to assure that current laws are observed addressing the imminent danger posed to both the school children and the residents of the neighborhood. If we cannot trust our elected officials to put our health and safety first, whom can we trust?

Source of the Lead

The proposed construction site is a private parking lot that has been in use for more than 50 years. The cars and trucks that parked there used leaded gasoline, which was in use until 1996. Each time a car or truck engine was turned on or off, the combustion exhausted particulates containing lead that went through the tailpipes into the parking lot, and were absorbed by the soil, where they have remained for over 50 years.

In 2012-13, a lead expert tested 100 samples of soil from this parking lot and 11 NYCHA parking lots, citywide. Analysis revealed that the highest lead level of all of the soil samples was in the 97th Street parking lot, as well as six of the highest top ten lead levels of all the parking lots tested throughout New York City.

The scientific evidence is clear and unequivocal that the parking lot contains toxic levels of lead that if disturbed by construction and made airborne would be toxic to young children, pregnant women, seniors, people with respiratory problems and others. (Please note, Governor, that all of the supporting scientific data will be sent to you along with this petition.)

Specifically, we, the undersigned, call upon you, along with Commissioner Nirav Shah and Commissioner Joe Martens, to:

1. Direct the New York State Department of Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and the Bureau of Community Environmental Health, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Permits, to conduct an environmental impact assessment as prescribed by (SEQR) State Environmental Quality Review 6 NYCRR Part 617, regarding the construction of a 20-story nursing home on West 97th Street adjacent to Public School 163, as this construction would release substances acutely hazardous to public health, safety, and the environment.

2. Order the submission of an environmental impact statement by the nursing home facility, Jewish Home Lifecare, as required by law and regulation, and require such remedial action as each agency deems necessary.

 

[Additional environmental factors in petition letter, below]

Letter to
Governor, State of New York Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
Commissioner, New York State Department of Health Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H.
Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Joe Martens
Tell Governor Cuomo: West 97th St. Construction Requires Environmental Impact Study

We are parents and teachers of children attending Public School 163 on West 97th Street in Manhattan, and we are residents and elected representatives of the surrounding neighborhood. Together, we are a coalition of community stakeholders, nursing home advocates, tenants’ associations, and other concerned citizens.

Proposed Construction Site Has Toxic Levels of Lead

Construction of a 20-story nursing home is proposed to break ground next door to the 3-story P.S. 163. Despite the fact this construction would expose the school children to airborne lead and dust, along with excessive noise and potential construction equipment hazards, there has been no environmental impact assessment, nor is there a plan for one.

As citizens, and as your constituents, we call upon you, Governor Cuomo, to assure that current laws are observed addressing the imminent danger posed to both the school children and the residents of the neighborhood. If we cannot trust our elected officials to put our health and safety first, whom can we trust?

Source of the Lead

The proposed construction site is a private parking lot that has been in use for more than 50 years. The cars and trucks that parked there used leaded gasoline, which was in use until 1996. Each time a car or truck engine was turned on or off, the combustion exhausted particulates containing lead that went through the tailpipes into the parking lot, and were absorbed by the soil, where they have remained for over 50 years.

In 2012-13, a lead expert tested 100 samples of soil from this parking lot and 11 NYCHA parking lots, citywide. Analysis revealed that the highest lead level of all of the soil samples was in the 97th Street parking lot, as well as six of the highest top ten lead levels of all the parking lots tested throughout New York City.

The scientific evidence is clear and unequivocal that the parking lot contains toxic levels of lead that if disturbed by construction and made airborne would be toxic to young children, pregnant women, seniors, people with respiratory problems and others. (Please note, Governor, that all of the supporting scientific data will be sent to you along with this petition.)

Specifically, we, the undersigned, call upon you, along with Commissioner Nirav Shah and Commissioner Joe Martens, to:

1. Direct the New York State Department of Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and the Bureau of Community Environmental Health, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Permits, to conduct an environmental impact assessment as prescribed by (SEQR) State Environmental Quality Review 6 NYCRR Part 617, regarding the construction of a 20-story nursing home on West 97th Street adjacent to Public School 163, as this construction would release substances acutely hazardous to public health, safety, and the environment.

2. Order the submission of an environmental impact statement by the nursing home facility, Jewish Home Lifecare, as required by law and regulation, and require such remedial action as each agency deems necessary.

The presence of lead demands an Environmental Impact Assessment. We ask you to consider the following additional environmental factors:

1. The proposed construction site is as near as 11 yards from P.S. 163, meaning that school children and others would be dangerously close to moving construction vehicles on West 97th Street next to, and possibly in front of, P.S. 163.
a. The school is a 3-story, flat roof building. Nothing can stop falling construction materials of a 20-story building from crashing directly through the school’s roof.
b. The proximity to a potential crane collapse could be catastrophic.

2. Asthma among children at P.S. 163 is more prevalent than the EPA’s national statistic of 1 out of every 10 school-aged children. Dust and debris of construction would only exacerbate their condition.

3. Children and teachers at P.S. 163 would be subjected to extreme decibel levels from pile driving, drilling, cement mixing and possibly dynamite blasting throughout the school day (8 AM to 5:45 PM) for several years.
a. Excessive noise pollution and stress can cause permanent cognitive delay.
b. Chronic noise exposure impairs reading comprehension and long-term memory.
c. Children would not be able to perform competently for mandated testing.

4. School children would lose outside schoolyard and playground time.
a. Teaching kids to be physically active is supported by the NYC Dept. of Education, and the NYS Dept. of Health, as well as the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Dept. of Education.
b. The Physical Education program is already compact due to budget limitations.

5. The stability of P.S. 163 and surrounding buildings may be undermined if there is blasting on the site. Over-construction in the neighborhood has already led to sink holes and the emergency evacuation of residents of 784 Columbus Avenue in July 2007, due to a retaining wall collapse because of nearby dynamiting.

6. Water that flows under the construction site may become hazardous to the school if it undermines the school’s foundation.

7. West 97th Street is an emergency vehicle route, a city-designated truck route, and the outflow street of the 97th Street cross-park transverse. Traffic on the street during construction hours would be brought to a standstill, endangering emergency response to the entire neighborhood.

8. Post-construction:
a. Two new loading docks would be introduced 100 feet from P.S. 163. West 97th Street is already treacherous with eight driveways and a major supermarket’s on-street loading dock.
b. To reach the entrance at the back of the proposed nursing home, vehicles would have to wait their turn to drive across a 50-foot, heavily trafficked pedestrian sidewalk, which would add to the current West 97th Street congestion and endanger pedestrians on the sidewalk.
c. Emergency response vehicle access to 784 Columbus Avenue would be impeded, as the nursing home proposes to use the 784 Columbus sole access driveway for its own ambulances and vehicular traffic.