Cancer center awaits key votes on zoning proposal

After months of delays, the proposed Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center entered the new year with an uncertain future.

The New Haven City Plan Commission will hold a public hearing Jan. 18 to discuss the special medical zone proposed by Yale-New Haven, which must be approved for the center to be constructed as proposed. Once the commission has voted on its revisions to the zoning plan, it will forward the plans to the Board of Aldermen for final approval, commission executive director Karyn Gilvarg said.

Gilvarg said the City Plan Commission has revised the hospital’s proposal to better serve the surrounding community.

“They wrote a zone that was carefully tailored to fit their plans,” she said. “We have other hospitals in New Haven besides Yale-New Haven.”

Ward 10 Alderman Edward Mattison said the city wants to create a general medical zone that fits other medical facilities, such as St. Raphael’s.

But Yale-New Haven representative Vincent Petrini said the zone originally proposed by the hospital was comparable to the city’s other business zones. The city’s zoning restrictions would require a scaling back of the building’s footprint and a relegation of the first floor to retail spaces, he said.

Though Mattison said street level retail would increase pedestrian traffic in the area and better integrate it with the rest of the community after the end of the business day, Petrini said such a substantial redesign of the current plans would not be worth additional delays.

“The project has been delayed significantly,” Petrini said. “At this point for us to fully redesign the cancer center would set us back years and millions of dollars.”

Still, Mattison said the hospital should have communicated with the city more consistently since the plan’s first inception in order to create a center that would best serve the interests of the entire community.

“They made the decision to go ahead and fully design the building without seeking approval,” he said. “The proposal would require some degree of modification.”

Although Mattison said there are more issues to be addressed and negotiated, Petrini said no meetings have been held between the city and Yale-New Haven to discuss the zoning plans since August.

William Meyerson, a spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, which has been involved with efforts to unionize Yale-New Haven employees, said the hospital has not yet met with local unions to discuss its community and labor-management issues. Such a meeting is necessary to begin negotiating a community benefits agreement, Meyerson said.

Last month, local advocacy group Community Organized for Responsible Development celebrated the one-year anniversary of ratification for its proposed community benefits agreement, which includes a “right to unionize” clause. Doctors from Yale-New Haven, dressed in white lab coats, rallied in support of expedient approval for the cancer center proposal at a Board of Aldermen meeting on Jan. 3.

Yale-New Haven Chief of Staff Peter Herbert said in a press release Wednesday that he also questions the reasons for the proposal’s delay.

“Each day 50 residents of Connecticut and 12 in New Haven are diagnosed with cancer,” said Herbert. “As physicians, we can no longer stand by while this project continues to be delayed by whether or not hospital employees should be unionized.”

Meyerson said the hospital workers, many of whom live in the Hill neighborhood which surrounds the hospital, are likely to make an appearance at the coming public hearings. CORD member Joshua Eidelson ’06 said fellow members of the group, many of whom are Yale undergraduates, will also be in attendance to demonstrate their support for a cancer center with a community benefits agreement.

“We will continue to be standing as students to say that there is a better way for development to happen here,” Eidelson said. “It happens when everyone has a seat at the table.”

Eidelson is a staff columnist for the News.

Petrini said the proposed cancer center has received support from the community and from throughout the state. He said it will bring 500 new jobs to New Haven and increase the availability of local health care in the region.

“Ironically, the people who would benefit most from the project would be the ones who live in the neighborhood,” Petrini said.

The state Office of Health Care Access approved Yale-New Haven’s certificate of need for the cancer center last September.

Comments