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Tensions Run High at UES Medical Complex Public Forum

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The joint project from CUNY Hunter and Memorial Sloan-Kettering that would put an enormous nursing school/medical center between 73rd and 74th Streets next to the FDR Drive has already drawn the ire of some Upper East Side residents. The two adjacent buildings (designed by architects ennead and Perkins Eastman), which would total over one million square feet—six times greater than what the lot is currently zoned for—have already been compared to a "a fat lady trying to squeeze into a too-tight girdle" and a "morbidly obese person" on a plane by angry Upper East Side residents. Last night, at a Community Board 8 Land Use Committee meeting, those residents (who have now organized into a group calling themselves Residents for Reasonable Development) as well as a large group offering support for the project showed up in droves. When the dust settled, 43 residents had offered public testimony (25 supporting the project, 17 opposing, and one who just wanted to talk about 3-D printers), and the signs hanging on the front of the CB8 table reading "Civility" and "Brevity is a Virtue" were long forgotten.

The meeting began with a series of presentations from Hunter and Memorial Sloan-Kettering higher ups on the need for state-of-the-art facilities for cancer research, and a few of the people who supported the project were currently undergoing cancer treatment. Some Residents for Reasonable Development took this as an affront, claiming that their position was being twisted to make them seem un-empathetic. "We're opposed to this project; we're not opposed to curing cancer," one resident said. The reasons most often cited for opposing the project included increased traffic and congestion as well as the dangerous precedent it would set to allow developers to build huge projects while buying off the community with a donation to a public park.

The public park donation was also a point of serious contention. CUNY-MSK had previously won support from the community by introducing a zoning text amendment that would pledge funds for new open space in the area, promising the funds to Andrew Haswell Green Park, if their various height, setback, rear yard equivalent, lot coverage, and parking waivers were approved. However, some members of the community noted that Andrew Haswell Green Park was not actually mentioned by name in the amendments, meaning that the rug could be pulled out from under them at a later date.
· Memorial Sloan-Kettering coverage [Curbed]