City Breaks Ground on New Public Health Lab in Harlem

Rendering of the new Public Health Lab. Image Credit: NYC EDC.

The new facility is expected to open in 2026. On July 6, 2022, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) announced that city officials broke ground on the new NYC Public Health Laboratory, located adjacent to the Harlem Hospital complex on West 137th Street in Manhattan. While the (EDC) is managing the building’s construction, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) will operate the laboratory upon its completion.

Initially created a century ago to control diphtheria in New York City, the Public Health Laboratory was the world’s first municipal bacteriological laboratory. Since the 1960s, the lab has been located across the street from Bellevue Hospital at 455 First Avenue, where it currently occupies eleven stories of a 335,000 square-foot, fourteen-story building.

Over the years, the public health laboratory has expanded to provide a wider array of testing services, such as community testing for sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis, antibiotic resistance testing, outbreak response (including COVID-19 and monkeypox), and whole genome sequencing. The lab currently employs over 200 staff members.

Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the brand new Harlem facility will be ten stories tall and 240,000 square feet. EDC and DOHMH secured $25 million from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to make the lab one of the most high-tech, energy efficient and sustainable laboratories in the nation.

Construction will cost a total of $454 million, and the building will comply with NYC’s ambitious new sustainability regulations. In addition to meeting LEED version 4 silver, with all critical building systems located above the current 100-year flood plain, the new laboratory will boast ultra-efficient laboratory equipment and a cogeneration plant to conserve energy. The new laboratory is already participating in the City’s 80×50 program, an initiative committed to reducing 80 percent of carbon emissions by the year 2050.

Following the demolition of three existing buildings, construction began in June 2022. The updated Public Health Laboratory is expected to finished 6in 2026.

At the groundbreaking, Mayor Eric Adams praised the new facility, stating: “We can’t afford to wait for the next pandemic to strengthen our public health infrastructure. The NYC Public Health Laboratory will bring a state-of-the-art facility to Harlem to serve and protect the public health of all New Yorkers. I look forward to working with the DOHMH and NYCEDC to build this nation-leading laboratory to keep New Yorkers safe and healthy for generations to come.”

EDC President and CEO Andrew Kimball stated, “We are working to ensure our best and brightest have the state-of-the-art facilities they need and deserve to continue their groundbreaking and lifesaving efforts on behalf of our City. During the pandemic, our scientists never wavered in their efforts to track COVID-19 or other viruses. This new lab will offer them the tools and resources needed to identify future health threats, while the lab’s new location will benefit public health equity, which has never been more vital.”

NYC Health Commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan stated, “This vital piece of public health infrastructure demands better physical infrastructure, which this state-of-the art laboratory complex will have. We’re proud that PHL will be an embodiment of New York City as the public health capital of the world, and will lead in innovation and training the next generation of public health laboratory scientists.”

By: Cassidy Strong (Cassidy is a CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)

Economic Development Corporation: NYCEDC and DOHMH Break Ground on State-of-the-Art New York City Public Health Laboratory (July 6, 2022)

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