Cancer center delay sparks blame game

The most expensive development project in New Haven’s history is about to miss its first deadline.

Yale-New Haven Hospital, which planned to break ground for a new $430 million cancer center before the end of September, obtained approval from the state for its center plans earlier this month but no timeline has been set for the city’s approval.

Finger pointing has accompanied the delay. Residents have criticized the hospital for proposing construction plans that will disrupt the community, and Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has said the hospital can blame itself for the stalled approval process because its proposed business-medical zone does not allow for adequate future government oversight.

But Yale-New Haven faults a handful of uncompromising groups it says are not representative of the city as a whole for the holdup.

City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg ARCH ’75 said there must be at least one more public hearing to discuss Yale-New Haven’s zoning plan in comparison to the city’s counter-plan before the proposal can be submitted to the Board of Aldermen, but no such hearings occurred this past month.

“None have been scheduled for the future,” she said.

The city’s counter-plan places greater limits on the size of the center and institute a local government design review process for the future.

Yale-New Haven spokesman Vin Petrini said the hospital’s zoning proposal is not sufficiently different from existing zones to warrant new government regulation. In particular, Petrini said, putting height requirements on new buildings is unfair because other existing zones in the city do not have similar requirements.

“The hospital is not looking for any special exceptions,” Petrini said. “But we are concerned about many of the proposals having an impact on our ability to provide care.”

Petrini said one suggestion the city has put forth — putting retail shops on the first floor of the main cancer center building — is not viable because a treatment hub for women’s cancers and breast cancer is planned for that space.

Hospital officials are seriously concerned that no new public hearing dates have been set, Petrini said.

A number of New Haven residents voiced concerns about the new construction and zoning proposal at the most recent cancer center hearings, held this past summer.

One of those residents, New Haven Urban Design League board member and Political Science director of undergraduate studies David Cameron, said he is worried the hospital will be unwilling to compromise on zoning issues.

“None of the proposed amendments will detract from the hospital’s ability to provide care,” he said. “Some might even improve it.”

Cameron said these proposals include creating special reserved parking for cancer patients in the Air Rights Garage on York Street.

“The hospital is playing a losing card if it thinks it can scare people into accepting its proposals by suggesting all other proposals will detract from care,” Cameron said.

Cameron said residents may be more amenable to zone changes if they are extended to the Hospital of St. Raphael and Temple Medical Center.

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