Environmental Impact Statement For Senior Residence Upheld

PS 163 in Manhattan. Image credit: Citylaw.

Non-profit developer sought to build residence for the elderly in Manhattan adjacent to a public school. In 2012, Jewish Home Lifecare, a non-profit providing health care services, applied to the New York State Department of Health for a permit to construct a residential facility for the elderly and disabled to be located on West 97th Street in Manhattan next door to P.S. 163. After Lifecare submitted an environmental assessment statement and an environmental impact statement, pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the Health Department approved the facility. Parents from P.S. 163 and nearby tenants objected and filed an article 78 petition seeking to annul the Health Department’s approval. The parents and tenants claimed that the Health Department had failed to address adequately the risks of exposure to hazardous materials and noise-levels.

Supreme Court Justice Joan Lobis ruled in favor of the parents and tenants, annulled the approval by the Health Department and remanded Lifecare’s application for further investigation into the potential hazards. The Appellate Division reversed, dismissed the parents and tenant’s lawsuit and confirmed the Health Department’s approval. The court held that the Health Department had followed the State’s environment procedures and its decision was not arbitrary or capricious. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division’s decision.

The Court of Appeals noted that the Health Department had relied on a Phase I environmental assessment, a Phase II assessment taking soil samples, issued several reports, and held two public hearings. In addition, the Health Department had addressed environmental concerns by mandating remedial measures including an extensive health and safety plan, sound barriers, vehicle inspections, and off-site dumping of soil.

The Court noted that the court’s role is not to determine if the remedial steps were adequate, but rather whether the agency complied with the applicable law. Here, the Court found that the agency’s procedures and decisions complied with SEQRA’s requirements.


Matter of Friends of PS 163, Inc. v. Jewish Home Lifecare, Manhattan, 30 N.Y.3d 416 (2017).

By: Erika Pedersen (Erika is a New York Law School Student, Class of 2019.)


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