Environmental Study of Natural History Museum Expansion Bared - Manhattan Express | Manhattan Express

Environmental Study of Natural History Museum Expansion Bared

The black dotted line on the diagram indicates portions of the Theodore Roosevelt Park that face alteration as the result of the current plans for the Gilder Center’s construction. | AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

BY JACKSON CHEN | The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) took another step in the lengthy approval process for its controversial expansion as the Department of Parks and Recreation released the project’s draft environmental impact statement on May 18.

The Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation comes with a $340 million price tag and would significantly improve the museum’s visitor flow and offer more exhibition and educational space. However, the project would also encroach on the surrounding Theodore Roosevelt Park and involve three years of construction.

The dense and detailed draft environmental impact statement (on.nyc.gov/2qc5UE0) triggers a comment period, with the public given the opportunity to sound off on June 15 at 6 p.m. in the museum’s LeFrak Theater (enter on Columbus Avenue at West 79th Street).

According to Ed Applebome, senior vice president at AKRF, an environmental consulting firm that was part of the project team, the document focuses on changes between the site’s existing environment and expected conditions once the project is completed, with particular focus on three areas with potential for significant adverse environmental impacts.

The expectation that the Gilder Center will draw an additional 745,000 annual visitors to the museum means there will likely be a notable impact on traffic and transportation. Applebome said that looking at three intersections expected to see increased vehicular traffic — West 81st Street and Central Park West, West 77th and Central Park West, and West 77th and Columbus Avenue — the team concluded that impact can be mitigated by a one-second traffic signal retiming at the discretion of the Department of Transportation. To address the expected influx of pedestrians at West 81st Street and Columbus Avenue, he added, a widening of the painted crosswalk is recommended.

In weighing the impact of three years of construction, Applebome said the team specifically looked at two residential buildings — at 101 and 118 West 79th Street — in particularly close proximity to the project. There, the museum is exploring mitigation techniques like window treatments and air conditioning to reduce the negative effects of construction noise and pollution on residents.

The museum will also establish a construction working group to field concerns and complaints and serve as a point of contact for the community and local leaders. According to Dan Slippen, the museum’s vice president of government affairs, in assembling this working group, the museum will cast a “fairly wide net and we’ll be pretty inclusive” — potentially with representatives of neighborhood or block associations and business improvement districts.

Due to the demolition of one of the museum’s existing buildings, one significant impact on historical and cultural resources cannot be avoided, Sue Golden, a partner with Venable LLP, a law firm that was part of the museum’s team, acknowledged. She noted the museum would document the building’s existence by preserving its records and working with the State Historic Preservation Office.

A rendering of the proposed Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation expansion to the American Museum of Natural History. | AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Vocal opponents of the project remain vigilant, having rejected the Gilder Center at every step. Cary Goodman, a District 7 City Council candidate, was critical of the methods and documents used to examine the project. He said his stance remains the same — that the museum should restart the entire process with community input at the fore.

“Frankly, I don’t think they have the community’s interest at heart for me to trust them to contain all the toxins that’s part of the project,” Goodman said of the environmental impact. “I’m not clear that their level of commitment to the neighborhood is good.”

Another opposition group, the Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park, recently retained an engineering firm through Michael Hiller, an attorney known for representing residential opposition to major developments, according to the group’s president Claudia DiSalvo. She added that the firm’s independent study would be more comprehensive compared to the draft study completed by the parks department.

8 Responses to Environmental Study of Natural History Museum Expansion Bared

  1. Dr. Cary Goodman June 1, 2017 at 10:22 am

    This was a toxic plan and still is.
    Environmentally, it is full of pollution and toxic waste.
    Socially, it is reinforcing the educational inequality of our city.
    Politically, it has divided our community.
    The museum's plan is funded by climate change-deniers, promoted by lobbyists and enabled by the incumbent.
    It has already cost more than $100 million of our taxes.

    The museum's plan has soiled the democratic process of this neighborhood.

    It is time for the museum to withdraw its application OR for the Mayor to reject it.

    Reply
  2. Faith Steinberg June 1, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    I also have grave doubts as to the validity of any science being taught at the Museum, given evidence of the climate change denial, e.g., cutting down 7 magnificent 125 year old trees, destroying a much needed green space in our already densely populated area and over-trafficked community. And what a terrible example to set for children cutting down that beautiful canopy of trees.

    Reply
  3. Ground Control June 2, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Let's name the climate deniers and worse on the Board of the AMNH. Richard Gilder for whom this vanity project is named. Founder of the Club for Growth, an extreme right wing think tank behind the "pay no taxes" egregious budget cuts proposed by the current Administration. Yet his money seems to blind those who might consider that the policies he's espoused could be very harmful to the city of New York. And then on the board of trustees, Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of billionaire hedge fund owner Robert Mercer who is notorious for climate denial and racism; a $10 million dollar investor in Breitbart News. His daughter, Rebekah was on Trump's campaign team and a huge donor. She is known to contribute generously to organizations which claim climate science is a hoax. She was part of the President's policy making team which is happily removing our country from the Paris Climate Science Agreement, and cutting the federal budget to the bone to eliminate programs like the NEA, Meals On Wheels, food stamps and Medicaid. The AMNH should be ashamed. While politics makes strange bedfellows, this kind of anti-science, anti-human thinking does not belong at the head of a New York cultural institution, or any museum claiming to have an interest in science.

    Reply
  4. bj lerner June 2, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    I am totally against this project. The museum has a lot of unused space within their buildings. They also that a large space in the middle of their footprint that could be used. In addition there is a large terrace that is rarely used. A busy day might have 3 people sitting on it. The cost to build and maintain is huge. This is tax payers money. Gilder gives $50 million, but the next $350 or more million is from tax payers. We desperately need green space. You see museums grabbing park land, when have you seen the city develop new park land in the densely populated Upper West Side? Leave our small, quiet jewel alone. This is a vanity project. A large open space to rent out for corporate functions. It does not serve our community at all.

    Reply
  5. P. Blanchard June 2, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    My perspective is that of a long-time admirer and patron of the American Museum of Natural History. The loss of any parkland sets an extremely dangerous precedent for further incursions, whether by AMNH or other institutions or entities. At a community meeting, AMNH admitted that it has no plans for the remainder of T. R. Roosevelt Park "at the present time." The destruction of existing and valued open space to make way for the Gilder Center as well as the significant impact on the remainder of T.R. Roosevelt Park, resulting from the construction over a period of three years, are simply unacceptable. As the project architect admitted, the expansion could be completed through creative design without the loss of park space. As steward and champion of the environment, the Museum needs to set a far more sensitive plan than the one currently proposed.

    Reply
  6. Robert Grandt June 4, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    People act like it is written in stone that the expansion will cost $350 million and be completed in 3 years.
    NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
    With cost over-runs, unforeseen construction problems, work stoppages,etc; this could take six or seven years and cost $700 or $800 million dollars. Teddy Roosevelt will be unusable for all of these years, with construction trucks and equipment all over the park. The noise level will be abominable. How do we know that additional funding will be available in the future as costs rise? The money can dry up and the project may lie half finished for years.

    But that's the good news. Once expansion is complete the park will be permanently unusable. Once a major entrance is built in back of the museum, numerous classes of school kids will enter and exit through the park. After their visit, THE CHILDREN WILL USE THE PARK AS A DE FACTO OUTDOOR CAFETERIA. The kids will be brown bagging their lunches in the park. For those without brown bags, there will be food carts up and down Columbus Avenue to feed them. Litter will be all over the park, increasing the rat and rodent population. Kids will be running all over the park, yelling and screaming.

    Right now numerous West Siders go to the park for a quiet afternoon of reading. Once the expansion goes through, that will be a thing of the past. There will no longer be benches to sit on, as the school kids will be occupying them.

    The schools buses, food trucks and other vehicles will create a traffic nightmare on Columbus Ave. If you commute on Columbus, your trip will take much longer. Emergency vehicles will not be able to get through.

    Reply
  7. ann russell June 4, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    One of the worst elements of this horrific plan is the utter betrayal of the community by the Community Board, which almost unanimously voted in favor of the project despite thousands of residents' signatures on petitions opposing the construction. I don't understand why the Community Board exists if it so blatantly goes against the wishes of the community; nor do I understand our City Council person Helen Rosenthal's support of it, both monetarily and in spirit.

    Reply
  8. Wealth June 8, 2017 at 6:18 am

    Implementing the better and interesting study for more and interesting tips I ever seen here. This manhattanexpressnews blog has been sharing with writing a research paper about environmental study of natural history expansion bared education and project would.

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