Court rules against UWS nursing home


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Appellate court finds proposed 20-story nursing home on West 97th Street would violate open space zoning rules; appeal to state’s highest court likely to follow


Photos



  • The site of the planned 20-story nursing home is currently a parking lot.




  • A rendering of the proposed New Jewish Home nursing facility on West 97th Street. Rendering: Perkins Eastman




BY MICHAEL GAROFALO

Opponents of a proposed 20-story nursing home on West 97th Street won a key court victory this week in their long-running effort to block the controversial Upper West Side project.

A state appellate court ruled Oct. 16 that plans for the New Jewish Home nursing facility at 125 West 97th St. do not adhere to New York City open space zoning requirements. The 3-1 decision overturned an earlier court ruling and determinations by the city’s Department of Buildings and Board of Standards and Appeals.

The proposed nursing home would be located at the site of what is now a parking lot on the super block that stretches from West 97th Street to West 100th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. On the same block are P.S. 163 and the three 16-story buildings of the Park West Village housing development, as well as a newer luxury residential building at 808 Columbus Ave.

New Jewish Home, formerly known as Jewish Home Lifecare, planned to move to the facility from its existing location on West 106th Street as part of a land swap with Park West Village owners Laurence Gluck and Joseph Chetrit.

The zoning challenge centered on the definition of open space in city zoning rules — specifically, whether garden space atop retail storefronts at the 808 Columbus Ave. development should be counted toward open space totals required to justify the nursing home tower.

The zoning application for the nursing home — approved by the Department of Buildings in 2014 and subsequently upheld by the Board of Standards and Appeals — counted the 42,500-square-foot rooftop space toward the open space requirement. A lawsuit filed by Park West Village residents argued that the rooftop area should not count toward the required open space because it is only accessible to residents of the newer luxury development and not to residents of the older Park West Village buildings.

The court found that “any rooftop space that is to be considered open space for the purposes of satisfying the open space requirement under the Zoning Resolution must be accessible and usable by all residents on a zoning lot,” thus disqualifying the rooftop space. Without the rooftop area, the nursing home tower falls short of the open space requirement, rendering the building permit for the project invalid.

The nursing home proposal attracted opposition from local elected officials, Park West Village residents and members of the P.S. 163 community from the time it was announced in 2011. Along with the disputed zoning justification, neighbors took issue with the building’s potential environmental impact, citing safety, health and noise concerns posed by years of construction, among other concerns. (Last year, the Court of Appeals ruled against nursing home opponents in a separate lawsuit that challenged the validity of an environmental impact statement relating to the project.)

The Appellate Division ruling is a milestone in the case, but not necessarily the final word. Jeff Braun, a lawyer representing the Park West Village owners, told The Wall Street Journal that his clients plan to request a hearing before the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

“While we are obviously disappointed by the court’s decision, we will not be deterred by it and will appeal,” John F. Marino, a spokesman for Park West Village Acquisition, LLC, the complex’s holding company, said in a statement. “We will continue to seek out a solution to ensure Jewish Home Lifecare can build this vital institution.”

Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, declined to comment.

Bruce Nathanson, senior vice president of New Jewish Home, said in a statement that the nonprofit is “deeply disappointed,” adding, “we will consider our options regarding this decision.”





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