NY Blood Center’s proposal to destroy landmarked landmark deserves citywide condemnation

No private citizens might have a more “deserving” site on which to perform lifesaving work in New York City than an abandoned Public Service Building on Broadway and 50th Street, which the New York…

NY Blood Center's proposal to destroy landmarked landmark deserves citywide condemnation

No private citizens might have a more “deserving” site on which to perform lifesaving work in New York City than an abandoned Public Service Building on Broadway and 50th Street, which the New York Blood Center (NYBC) wants to raze to make way for a seven-story office building.

City Councilman Richard Katz has been fighting to save the famed cement structure that stands as a monument to New York City’s, and the world’s, blood supply.

The NYBC’s plan, suggested by the developers, is to tear the building down and replace it with seven stories of office space and large retail space on an estimated 26,000 square feet of the 50,000 square feet of vacant retail space.

Peter A. Davidson, chairman of the Neighborhood Development Corp., which owns the parcel of land, would love to develop it, and with the help of the Blood Center plans to do so.

The Blood Center, its supporters, however, oppose any alterations, claiming that the building contains an “iron gantry” machine—a kind of horse-drawn tire conveyor system used to extract blood from the host body’s veins.

We recently visited the building where over 5,000 meals a day—more than 85 percent of which are to hospitalized patients—are prepared for distribution throughout the city. It is a key resource, along with all the blood it receives, in delivering some 9,000 pints of blood to patients each day.

The gantry machine was not there, we were told, because it does not exist.

That did not stop Mr. Davidson, the developer, from boasting that the property was acquired “purely for its potential value, without regard to a building that gives New York City such a grand showcase of medical technological innovation.”

The public body, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which owns the property (and which supports the Blood Center) said that the NYBC approached it with a request to convert the vacant retail space into a 7-story building. “In the analysis of such an arrangement, the development would provide substantial net financial benefits to the City.”

This account was emphatically denied by sources with knowledge of the project. The city informed the Blood Center that the downtown area was designed for more residential-driven projects, and that the Blood Center was only proposing to use part of the empty space as offices with 7,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.

It is difficult to know whose “story” we are supposed to believe. “That statement, and other misleading statements made by the Blood Center, ‘were meant to shame us into moving forward with their plan,’” said a senior source in opposition to the Blood Center’s bid.

The Blood Center dispute at 50th Street and Broadway in Manhattan has become even more contentious with the outside courts (a source told us that they are planning on charging the NYBC with harassing political opponents) and the NYBDC (emphatically denying it) at loggerheads.

If you drive along the corridor between the building and the hospital, you can clearly see a concert by the Skinny Puppy, the first pay-per-view event by a hip hop artist. The Blood Center wanted to bid on the rights to the event, and by keeping the Pink building occupied and under its control, can maximize the pay-per-view sales.

The historical significance of the Blood Center’s center is easy to see. It began life as a central blood bank of New York City in 1848, and has never closed. The social structure around the Blood Center changed significantly when the facility moved to 50th Street in 1960. Now it has to compete with other donors, many of whom are now forced to drive to the Westside hospital where they prefer to donate.

Whether the Blood Center has a serious financial interest in building the skyscraper on the city’s landmarked site is another question altogether. The city prohibits hospitals and other types of private structures from operating in historic buildings in the area. The Blood Center would not be able to use the name of the famous hospital above the blood center even if they wanted to.

The Blood Center’s plans to destroy a landmark building to expand in an existing commercial complex is a bad idea. To the best of our knowledge, the Blood Center is the only private charity that actually has a vested interest in destroying a city landmark.

New York Blood Center CEO Kip Chester, this is a very bad idea indeed.

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