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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Roosevelt Island Cornell Tech Residential Building To Include Housing For Weill Cornell Medical Staff - RIRA Members Claims Violation Of Environmental Impact Statement And NYC Lease For Campus

Cornell Tech announced at the January 31 Roosevelt Island Construction & Community Task Force meeting that 66 of the 352 apartments in the campus residential building

 Image of Cornell Tech Residential Building From Cornell Tech

scheduled to open in August 2017 will be used for housing Weill Cornell Medical personnel.

Images From January 31 Cornell Tech Task Force Presentation

Katarina Matic, chief of staff for Roosevelt Island's Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, reported about plans for the Weill Cornell apartments in the Cornell Tech residential building to the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) February 1 Common Council meeting.

Following Ms. Matic's report, RIRA Common Council Member Micky Rindler responded saying that use of the Cornell Tech residential building units for housing a non-Cornell Tech entity such as Weill Cornell Medical staff was not included in the Environmental Impact Statement submitted prior to approval of the project.

RIRA President and Community Board 8 member Jeff Escobar noted that the Weill Cornell Medical apartments in the Cornell Tech campus residential building:
... is contrary to the resolution that the Community Board passed and is attached to the lease...

... it's actually a violation of the terms and conditions of the lease.
Here' is the discussion of subject at February 1 RIRA meeting.

Micky Rindler adds;
The recent, unexpected news that Cornell Weill plans to lease 66 apartments in the new Residential building to Cornell Weill Medical Center employees should be of great concern to the residents of Roosevelt Island who commute during the 8-9 am rush hour. While it is true that nurses and some postdoctoral fellows will have schedules that avoid rush hour, it is a safe guess that 30-40 people will travel to their campus during prime time. Spouses will also be commuting to other jobs in Manhattan. Moreover, because it is closer than the subway on R.I. and about the same distance from the subway in Manhattan, no doubt almost all will use the tram, which cannot accommodate that many commuters along with those that will be added in the planned Southtown buildings 8 and 9. Even the F train has become increasingly overcrowded as the economy has improved and more building rise in Queens. The impact of this decision will be profound for Island residents.

Also, we don’t know if some of the Cornell Weill employees will have small children which means more use of our playgrounds, daycare centers and even sports facilities. Cornell Tech did not offer any plans to accommodate their needs.

Moreover, in Chapter 14: Transportation of the Environmental Impact Statement filed before the City’s approval of the Cornell Tech campus, the consultants did not mention any Cornell Weill employees. They envisioned apartments would be occupied by 2 leaders, 77 faculty and visitors, 30 postdoctoral fellows and 463 students (all part of Cornell Tech). Very few of these residents were predicted to commute to Manhattan during rush hour. Therefore the new plan is a clear violation of the terms of the campus approval. Barring filing a new EIS with a plan to minimize rush hour commuting, Cornell Tech should be prohibited by the city and state from accommodating non-Cornell Tech personnel or students in the Residential building.
I asked Cornell Tech for comment. Julie Delay, Senior Director of Human Resources & Campus-Wide Initiatives, replied:
As discussed at the latest Cornell Tech Construction and Community Task Force meeting, it is anticipated that Cornell Tech will not have a population large enough to fill the residential building, The House, for the first 5 years. The lease allows for Cornell-affiliated occupancy as our populations scales. Weill Cornell Medical will have 66 apartments for 5 years. The occupants will be Weill Cornell Medical medical students, postdocs and possibly a small number of visiting academics. Weill Cornell Medical already has members of their population living in 455 and 465 Main Street on Roosevelt Island.

We do not anticipate this will affect rush hour commuting on the island. Commuting patterns for medical students and professionals are atypical and vary widely. Medical students in their 3rd year are typically at the hospital at 6:00 a.m. and return in the afternoon. If a student is doing a residency, their hours are long and never 9:00-5:00. Postdocs would commute during a range of hours with many getting to work later in the morning and working into the evening. They may have 15-18 hour days, and work on weekends.

Anyone with questions can reach out to Cornell Tech's operations and community staff via our website
Here is 2014 Cornell Tech residential building presentation to Roosevelt Island community.

UPDATE 4:30 PM - Statement from Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright:
At their January 31st meeting, Cornell Tech informed the task force members that out of 352 apartments for Cornell affiliated institutions, 66 apartments would be used by Weill Cornell Medical School for five years. My office gave a full update on Cornell Tech’s meeting to the Roosevelt Island Residents Association on February 1st. I am committed to a process that is transparent and responsive to the Roosevelt Island community.

It is my understanding that the lease allows Cornell Tech affiliates to use of the residential building for a limited amount of time. However, I want to invite the community to submit their questions to my office so that we can make sure they are answered at the upcoming Town Hall prior to the opening of the campus this summer.
The Cornell Tech Town Hall meeting is scheduled for March 29.

UPDATE 3/2 - Below is provision of Cornell Tech lease with NYC dealing with Cornell affiliates leasing units in the Roosevelt Island Cornell residential building:
... "Academic Person" means a student, faculty member, administrator, staff member, educator, lecturer, academic researcher or counselor, in each case, who is involved in the University's degree-granting programs or related academic research and education at the Overall Project. In addition, when used with reference to a 'Residential Sublease' and'residences for Academic Persons', for the first 10 years of operation of the Phase I Residential Space only, an Academic Person may also include any of the foregoing University-related persons without restriction on whether or not such person is involved with the Overall Project, provided that in the eighth (8th) year of operation, at least 60% of the apartments shall be restricted to Academic Persons involved in the Overall Project, in the ninth (9th) year of operation, at least 75% of the apartments shall be so restricted, and in the tenth (10th) year of operation, at least 90% of the apartments shall be so restricted....