NYC Council approves controversial makeover plan for New York Blood Center

New York Blood Center
People walk past at a New York Blood Center in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan on December 02, 2020 in New York City. Photo credit Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The New York City Council on Tuesday voted to approve a controversial makeover of the longtime home of the New York Blood Center.

The plan has upended relations between the blood bank and its neighbors on the Upper East Side.

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The New York Blood Center, which provides 90% of the city's blood supply, is looking to upgrade its aging headquarters on 67th Street, turning a three-story white brick building into a 16-story glass office tower.

Residents in the neighborhood and local City Councilmember Ben Kallos came out against the plan, arguing it would block out sunlight and drive up real estate prices in the area.

In a rare move, the City Council overwhelmingly approved the plan, bucking a longstanding tradition of killing a project if the local councilmember is against it.

NY1 reports the vote was 43-5 to move forward with the redevelopment.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the plan fits in with his larger goal and vision of making New York City a life sciences hub.

"We need life sciences in crucial locations, that East Side corridor is one of the greatest life sciences concentrations in the entire nation. Here's a chance to deepen it, life sciences leads to life-saving cures," de Blasio said. "We heard the concern, certainly in the community, there's important efforts being made to address those community concerns, some of the issues around the community, improve quality of life in the community, but this is something that's important for the whole city."

Also part of the controversy are accusations of backroom dealings and malfeasance.

Mayor de Blasio owes more than $400,000 to a lobbying firm working with the blood center, which is something opponents have said amounts to a conflict of interest.

The city is also set to fork over $100 million in tax breaks.