Op Ed: Politics Took Over the Rezoning of the Blood Center

Since the City Council passed the rezoning of the New York Blood Center and the area around it, many stories have been coming out making false allegations that the local community is against the Blood Center. But believe it or not, it’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Rafael Salamanca who are against NYBC’s expansion. 

Having lived next to the Blood Center for over 20 years, I was shocked to hear that they wanted to rezone their property, along with ours, to such extraordinary heights. Don’t get me wrong: NYBC has every right to do what they believe is best for their institution so they can grow and continue their mission. I, along with many other members of the community, have said from the beginning that they can and should build a brand-new state-of-the-art facility as-of-right. Doing so would allow them to significantly increase the size of their facility. 

There are many reasons why this tower should not be built. Information can be found on the Facebook group Eastsiders for Responsible Zoning. Not only were our concerns about the project ignored, but it came out that Mayor Bill de Blasio is offering the Blood Center and their private developer partner, Longfellow Real Estate, $100 million in property tax breaks to push Council members to support the rezoning. Additional tax incentives the city is offering amount to over $450 million. Not only that, but once rezoned,  Blood Center/Longfellow can decide not to build anything at all and the property can be sold to a new developer, who can build whatever they want – residential or commercial – without anything to do with life sciences. 

Why don’t they build the tower in Council Member Salamanca’s district? As Chair of the Land Use Committee, he has considerable sway in the land use process as well as siting of new projects and could have pushed for it. He could bring great jobs to his community, support local businesses, and expand the life science sector as Mayor de Blasio wants. In fact, his district already has an existing life sciences sector and the tower can be built as high as it was originally proposed in the beginning of the process. 

My work as a staff attorney with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A focuses on assisting people in all five boroughs. Along with other staff attorneys, we advocate against landlords trying to evict tenants – many of whom are Councilman Salamanca’s residents and small businesses. I can tell you firsthand that his district needs this economic growth. So why, as he puts it, pushed for it in a community that he himself has pointed out does not want it, or need it?

The solution is simple: NYBC builds as-of-right in its current location and builds its tower in Councilman Salamanca’s district along with its $450 million in tax breaks and incentives. The wealth is then spread out over different boroughs, as it should be. 

Instead of listening to residents and the council member who represents the area, there’s no doubt that politics and big money have played a large part in how this process played out, where influential special interests took hold of the process and unfortunately, won. 

Bill Angelos Esq. is Board President of 301 East 66th Street and Co-Founder of Eastsiders for Responsible Zoning.

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