Manhattan residents fight newly approved NY Blood Center expansion plans

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A "not in my back yard" fight is brewing on the Upper East Side as residents oppose a proposal to build a new 16-story high-rise on a residential block.

One of the country's largest independent blood suppliers wants to replace its three-story brick headquarters with a glass tower.

The New York City Council on Tuesday approved the New York Blood Center's application for an applied life sciences hub, called Center East on the Upper East Side, that it says will serve as the heart of the city's life science innovation ecosystem and a key part of its pandemic response infrastructure.

The carpenters union rallied in support of the plans, however, neighbors and a local councilman say 223 feet is way too tall and all wrong for the quiet neighborhood. They also argue it will cast long shadows on a nearby park.

"We've taken a month and a half to talk about shadows...shadows...shadows do not overshadow the health of New Yorkers and that is why today I will be voting yes on this application," NYC Council member Rafael Slamanca said.

Frustrated neighbors said they weren't saying "not in my back yard," they object the plan because the city would give away millions in tax breaks.

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"The council rejected Amazon over a $3 billion subsidy and this near-billion-dollar giveaway to Longfellow for six floors of commercial space should get the same scrutiny," NYC Council member Ben Kallos said.

Usually when a local councilman objects to a project in his district, the City Council defers to that councilman, but not this time.

The Council says the blood center is just too important.

"This project has citywide importance because of what the blood center does for the health care system, for hospitals, for the future of life sciences in New York City," Council speaker Corey Johnson said.

The council voted 43-5 to approve the project. Lawsuits are already underway to try to stop it, but as it stands right now, construction will start sometime next year.

The Blood Center's project aims at ensuring the Blood Center can continue providing safe, affordable blood services for the region's hospitals, as well as supercharge the city's life science industry and create jobs and career pathways for underrepresented groups.

"We thank the Council and City leaders for approving this critical project," New York Blood Center Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff Rob Purvis said. "Center East will position New York to be a global public health hub, create jobs, stimulate billions in economic output annually, and open career opportunities for local students and young professionals."
Mayor-elect Eric Adams has also stated his support.

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