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15Proposed Rockefeller University Campus expansion over East Side Greenway & Mitigation plans

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  • Scott Baker
    Jan 5, 2014
      News comes over the past few months of the Rockefeller University's plans to expand their campus over the FDR and adjacent Greenway/Esplanade from 64-68 streets.  As most of you know, this is a particularly narrow and somewhat dilapidated section of the Green "belt" around Manhattan.

      The University's plans are discussed in articles here:
      and here:

      Both articles note neighborhood concerns about views and esplanade use afterwards, but the mitigation in the attached DEIS says:
      Overall, the proposed project would not result in any significant direct adverse impacts to open
      space resources.
      ...The esplanade is predominantly used for active recreation, including running and biking, and the most heavily utilized elements of the esplanade adjacent to the project site—particularly the walkway/bikeway—would not be affected by the proposed project.
      In addition, while temporary construction-related noise and construction-duration open space
      impacts would occur, disruptions of access to the esplanade would be limited to certain periods
      when usage is minimal.
      and in a footnote on page S-17:
      1 To partially mitigate the proposed project’s significant adverse shadows impact, Rockefeller
      University—in consultation with DCP and DPR—would undertake a substantial upgrade to the portion
      of the esplanade adjacent to the project site and would extend an additional approximately 150 feet south
      of the project site. See discussion of bulkhead repair and rebuilding and substantial esplanade upgrades
      described in “Mitigation.”

      Elsewhere, though I can't find the source right now, there has been discussion of Rockefeller University mitigating their construction by paying for the completion of Andrew Haswell Green Park (phase II) from 59-62 street on the Greenway, under the decommissioned Heliport.  Given that no funding is currently in sight for this section, this would be a net gain for esplanade/greenway users like us.

      I'll be blunt. 
      No one has come up with a viable way to pay for - in the near term - both the necessary repairs to the bulkhead, nor the necessary widening of the esplanade (also included here - to 12' minimum), let alone the outside possibility of completing a new portion.  Yes, we all know about the U.N./NYC/NY state land swap deal, but that's because that deal has been dangling forever!  THAT plan is to complete the Greenway by 2025! 
      My alternate plan, given at a town hall in September 2011, and directly to the politicians involved, State Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly member Brian Kavanagh, and City Council Member Dan Garodnick, to pay for the 1-mile Gap Closure with a special improvement zone tax (a land value tax) over 10 years ($200m), attracted mild interest at the time, but resulted in no followup (see attached plan, and also here: http://www.slideshare.net/ScottOnTheSpot/land-value-tax-gap-closure-proposal-29529037).

      Above the esplanade, there would be new parkland, possibly open to the public to some degree, and relatively modest building footprints.  Some may object to the loss of view, but I would point out that in reality, they do not actually live on the river (though they may have thought they did), the city has to grow, and, well, where were they with alternate plans and alliances to complete the Greenway over the last 10 years or so (at least that's how long *I* have been involved in this particular absurdly slow proposed expansion)?

      So, if the price to pay for fixing up and reconstructing this portion of the Greenway is a short underpass and a few shadows, it sounds good to me.  If they include construction of Andrew Haswell Green Park, I'm actually quite enthusiastic. 

      There will be a CB8 Land Use meeting Jan 8.  Details here:

      Land Use Meeting
      Meeting Date: 
      Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 6:30pm
      Meeting Location: 
      Hunter College
      695 Park Avenue, 3rd Fl Glass Café, West Bldg.
      New York, NY
      1. Update: CUNY-Hunter/MSK East 74th Street Project-MSK will provide update on on-site activity and information of CUNY-Hunter/MSK Construction Working Group. Denise Goodman from MSK and Shelly Friedman from Friedman & Gotbaum, LLP will make very brief reports.
      2. Public Hearing: Application for 421-a Partial Tax Exemption, 200 East 79th Street a.k.a 1381-1389 Third Avenue, Block 1433, Lot 45, formerly known as lots 45, 46, 47, 48, to be known as Lots 1101-1147- Application for Preliminary Certification of Eligibility for Partial Tax Exemption under Section 421-a of the New York State Real Property Tax Law and 11-245 of the New York City Administrative Code.  The application has been filed with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
      3. Public Hearing: Rockefeller University -proposes to build a low research building (two-stories with rooftop pavilions) and a one- story conference center in air space over the FDR Drive adjacent to its campus, plus a one-story recreation building in the NW corner of the campus, a total of 181,000 square feet.  In addition, the University proposes to make improvements to the East River Esplanade, and repairs to the seawall, adjacent to the project. ULURP Project.
      4. Old Business
      5. New Business
      Nicholas D. Viest, Chair  

      Scott Baker -
      President: Common Ground - NYC; NY State Coordinator, Public Banking Institute; Opednews Blogger/Senior Editor; Huffington Post Blogger; Author

      -- Complete the East Side Manhattan Greenway from 38-61 Streets and save bikers, help the environment, and clear up traffic