NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The plan to build a 12-story, world-class cancer hospital and research facility in the heart of the city's downtown has taken a step closer to becoming a reality.
The New Brunswick Planning Board voted 3-2 on Monday night to adopt the Healthcare and Research Pavilion Redevelopment Plan.
The plan is a skeletal outline that sets the parameters and limitations for development on the site. It now goes before the City Council for its consideration, so a fully realized site plan could be on the horizon.
In the plan presented by the city's acting director of the department of planning and economic development Daniel Dominguez, the Cancer Pavilion would not only be built on the site of the Lincoln Annex School - which would be razed - but also comprise eight adjacent properties.
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital owns five of the eight properties. The owners of the other three lots occupied by homes would have to presumably sell their land to the hospital since eminent domain will not be employed for this plan, Dominguez said.
The pavilion would rise 200 feet into the air, joining the hospital, the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital, PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in the medical campus along the Somerset Street corridor.
According to a copy of the redevelopment plan provided to TAPinto New Brunswick, it satisfies several goals and objectives of the city’s master plan.
“In addition, the plan area borders the city’s Transit Village District, where dense development is preferred in order to take advantage of the pedestrian infrastructure proximate to this location,” according to the redevelopment plan.
Monday’s meeting often turned contentious, as parents and activists who are opposed to knocking down Lincoln Annex voiced their concerns.
Two parents of Lincoln Annex students and three of the students from the 4th to 8th-grade middle school that houses about 750 students were among the 31 speakers during the meeting that ran more than three hours.
Others voiced an often-repeated refrain that’s been heard at school board and City Council meetings since soon after the plan first came to light in September: build a replacement school before building the Cancer Pavilion.
Opponents also said they don’t want the students sent to the Pathways Campus at 40 Van Dyke Ave. while a replacement school was built.
They also repeatedly urged the board not to adopt the plan because one of the sites considered for the replacement school, 131 Jersey Ave., is contaminated.
One resident presented the board with a copy of a report obtained from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection which seems to indicate the site contained high levels of arsenic and lead. Records also show that in 2014, the state required a noticed about the site’s contamination be attached to the property’s deed.
Officials have said the site has been remediated to an “industrial level,” but more work would need to be done before a school could be built.
Many of the opponents assembled on the steps of City Hall before Monday’s meeting. When the meeting started, they held up signs in protest of building a replacement school on a contaminated site.
Board attorney Aravind Aithal advised the members that Monday’s night hearing was focused on the Cancer Pavilion plans. Although members of the public were permitted to raise the issue of the potential replacement school at 131 Jersey Ave. and perhaps part or all of 121 Jersey Ave., he said their testimony should not be factored into the board’s vote.
Board members John Petrolino and Robert Cartica voted against the plan.