Mayor de Blasio has ties to two of the firms representing the New York Blood Center in its controversial tower plan, which has been fiercely opposed by its Upper East Side neighbors and other elected officials.
The Blasio administration has pushed the project, with Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, who testified in favor of the expansion plan to City Council, which held a public marathon hearing on the project earlier this month. A vice president of the city’s public hospital system also supported it.
Administrative officials, including Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, have reached out to elected officials to support the project, according to a source.
The non-profit Blood Center is seeking a redevelopment to replace its three-story headquarters on East 67th Street with a 334-foot tower – equivalent to nearly 34 floors – that would mostly house for-profit life-science businesses.
The law firm Kramer Levin represents the Blood Center in the reorganization effort.
The same company represented the mayor in an investigation into his fundraising activities – and de Blasio still owes the company an estimated $ 435,000.
The PR company BerlinRosen also works for the Blood Center. The firm’s co-founder, Jonathan Rosen, has been one of the mayor’s closest advisers.
“It just seems strange to me that every time Kramer Levin is involved in a project, the mayor supports it, especially when he owes them so much money,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and is a leading opponent. of the Blood Center Plan.
Critics say the massive tower would cast shadows on St. Catherine’s Park across the street, and building noise would disturb the schools of the Julia Richman Education Complex on the block. The mid-block zoning change would also be unprecedented, opponents say.
The American rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents the area, along with State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, spoke out against the plan during the Oct. 20 city council hearing.
“The whole community is against this,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
The proposal received support among unions because of the jobs it would entail.
At the start of the seven-hour public hearing, the Blood Center offered a 50-foot reduction in the height of its tower to 284 feet to minimize the impact on the park.
The concession may not be enough to get the project approved by the city council, where it is currently for a zoning committee and where a source called its current size “unacceptable.”
“The blood center project will not go as it is, but negotiations are underway,” said an insider from the council.
The council usually responds to the wishes of the local representative in matters of subdivision.
The Blood Center claims that its current headquarters is its “best and only viable option” for a new building and that it wants to be located with science companies for research collaboration.
While holding blood samples at its headquarters, it stores and processes what it collects at a facility in Long Island City, which is also its distribution point. It says it conducts much of its research in its East 67th Street building, which dates to 1930 and was a former business school.
“Earlier this year, the mayor set himself a goal of making New York City the world’s life science capital. So, of course, he supports the Blood Center. Their work saves lives, creates jobs and innovates in a vital sector of our economy. It’s an important project, and NIMBYism should not stand in the way of our city’s growth, ”said City Hall spokesman Mitch Schwartz.
A representative of BerlinRosen said it was working on many economic development projects in the city and had not worked with the mayor since 2017. Kramer Levin said through a spokesman for the project that the company’s “track record speaks for itself.”