Tuesday, March 13, 2007

TESTIMONY OF COMMUNITY BOARD No. 9 MANHATTAN - Public Scoping Hearing - The City College of NY Science Building Phase I and II March 13, 2007


Public Scoping Hearing

The City College of NY Science Building Phase I and II
Date: March 13, 2007

The following testimony is submitted by Community Board No.9 Manhattan (CB9M) in response to The City College of New York Science Building and The City University of New York Advanced Science research Center Phases I and II Project.

First and foremost we are proud to have the existence of The City College of New York within the confines of CB9M. Such a highly respected public educational institution is of great value to our community. Our community is richer and stronger as a result off being the home for major institutions such as The City College of New York.

We must however admonish City College for not being forthcoming and sharing with the community and specifically with CB9M, its’ plans for development and growth. As a public institution and a City of New York dependency City College has the City Charter mandated responsibility of consulting with CB9M; such practices has not been the behavior of City College and it must be corrected. And though the proposed project is as of right and needs no regulatory approval from CB9M, respect and adherence to the City Charter that calls for consultation with CB9M is expected.

With respect to the project at hand, we are further disappointed that there has not been a more inclusive and transparent engagement process with the wider community and the student body of City College, especially when we read that the Dormitory Authority in its’ notice of this public scoping session, states that as the lead agency they have “determined that the proposed project … may have a significant effect on the environment”. Further, when the proposed project is linked to the planned placement of a transformer in the North Academic Center which will supply service to the proposed project and mean diminished space within the Cohen Library not to mention the potential hazards posed by its’ installation and usage, and where CUNY is asking DASNY’S authorization of the expenditure of tax-exempt bond to finance this project, then most certainly, a much more respectful, transparent and inclusive engagement process is absolutely warranted.

Specific to the plans for the erecting of the proposed City College Science Building and the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center Facility Phases I and II we pose the following questions and concerns.

1. Why is the institution proposing the installation of a transformer on the first floor of the NAC building to support the new buildings instead of placing the transformer encased underground at the new developments at the South Campus?

In the description of the usage of Advances Science Research Center II Building it is stated that, no programming is in place and that, “The exact nature of the research to be performed is unknown and may change over time as new research initiatives are developed.” Is the College considering leasing to any outside entity in the future to conduct biological testing and would Columbia University by chance be one such institution?

With respect to Green building designs the proposal states, “It is anticipated that the Proposed Project would incorporate green building design standards such as those leading to certification under LEED Green Building Rating System.” Though it is clear that certification is not being sought, what level of certification would the project aim to reach under LEED certification standards?

A key requirement for the building of these structures is the demolition of the existing outdoor athletic track and field facility. This, we are sure will have significant impact on the athletic program of City College as well as A Phillip Randolph High Schools’ athletic program, and will place added burden on limited number of outdoor public athletic fields in the community that are already over utilized. It is important to also note that while the development of facilities to develop the mind or our students are important, the physical development of each student is equally important to creating a balanced individual.

With regard to the New York Structural Biology Center and the concerns in relation to its’ close proximity to the proposed development parcel which could result in its operations being affected during construction and has raised the issue of possibility of employing the State’s powers of eminent domain. We urge that there be another course of action. The action of eminent domain bantered around with such ease in this climate in our District and indeed the country is sensitive and should be an action of last resort. Why not the use a letter of guarantee for all risk and damages assuming full replacement cost and ancillary expenses should there be any damages incurred.

CB9M also, due to the size and scope of this project, shares many other similar concerns as does the Dormitory Authority regarding this project such as the construction impacts, shadows, urban design and visual resources, archaeological and historic resources, energy, air quality, noise, and open space. Further, there are the issues of added increase traffic, other transportation issues and parking on an already narrow avenue in an over-populated District. Further, the safety of the children attending the closely adjacent Day Care Program located within the Schiff Building is of great concern.

Clearly, this project raises numerous amounts of concerns and dictates and requires a cooperative and inclusive development process that must provide answers and assurances to the community before public funds are expended to finance any or all of the project. Again, we urge The City College of New York to reach out to CB9M, the wider community, and its’ student body and make this process one that can meet the needs and address the concerns of all involved.

Respectfully Submitted

Yvonne Stennett
Co-Chair Housing, Land Use & Zoning
For and On Behalf of
J. Reyes-Montblanc
CB9M Chairman

cc: Hon. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York
Hon. Betsy Gotbaum, Public Advocate
Hon. Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President
Hon. Bill Perkins, NYS Senator
Hon. Keith L.T. Wright, NYS Assembly Member
Hon. Daniel O’Donnell, NYS Assembly member
Hon. Robert Jackson, NYC Council Member
Hon. Inez Dickens, NYC Council Member
CB9M Executive Committee and Members

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