Dozens of people protested Tuesday during a Rutgers University board of governors meeting regarding RWJBarnabas Health’s proposal to build a 510,000-square foot hospital facility in New Brunswick.
According to Rutgers University, the hospital facility would provide expanded clinical space that requires the approvals of New Brunswick city governing boards and the New Brunswick Board of Education for the purchase of the Lincoln Annex School and construction of a new school to replace it.
The protesters included community activist Charlie Kratovil, who ran for mayor of New Brunswick last year.
“To be clear, we are not against the proposal to build a cancer hospital here in New Brunswick,” Kratovil said. “We are simply demanding that the public school that we all paid $22 million to open not be abruptly closed to facilitate this project. We need more public schools in our city, not less. As such, we cannot afford to lose a Lincoln Annex without building a proper replacement that will be ready to open prior to any closure.”
Plans for a new cancer pavilion were announced by the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey on Feb. 4, which will result in the consolidation of services into a single Cancer Pavilion, and allow for the consolidation of key cancer services into a single location including laboratory services, an outpatient clinic, infusion/chemotherapy suite, radiation oncology, imaging, and international radiology.
The new pavilion will be a 12-story structure on Somerset Street, comprised of approximately 510,000 square feet.
The total project budget is estimated at $750 million, resulting in 1,000 construction jobs and employing approximately 500 to 600 people according to Chris Paladino, president of DEVCO, the New Brunswick Development Corp. Paladino told NJBIZ in early February that the anticipated groundbreaking is scheduled for late fall 2020, with completion 36 months later.
“While Rutgers is not the project developer, the university fully supports an outcome that will address the educational needs of families in our community by providing them with a state-of-the-art elementary school as quickly as possible and with as little disruption as possible, and an outcome that provides the community with high-quality clinical care the hospital expansion will bring to New Brunswick, New Jersey and beyond,” Rutgers spokeswoman Dory Devlin told NJBIZ.
Parents of Lincoln Annex students, community leaders, Rutgers faculty and students gathered outside Lincoln Annex School at 165 Somerset St. in New Brunswick on Tuesday morning. They marched to the Rutgers board of governors meeting to ask for a stop to the proposed $800 million plan that would relocate 750 students to a warehouse on the industrial outskirts of New Brunswick.
To be clear, we are not against the proposal to build a cancer hospital here in New Brunswick. We are simply demanding that the public school that we all paid $22 million to open not be abruptly closed to facilitate this project.
– Charlie Kratovil, community activist
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital plans to build the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey on the land occupied by the school.
The Coalition to Defend Lincoln Annex opposes children being warehoused. And if a health institute must be expanded onto the property where the school is currently located, a new school must first be constructed in a clean, safe, and accessible location, they argue.
Lincoln Annex School reopened in 2017 after $22 million in renovations. It enrolls fourth- to eighth-graders and is scheduled to be shuttered in a few months with no public discussion or debate. The students are 94 percent Latino and 86 percent are economically disadvantaged.
The students would be moved to a replacement school at 131 Jersey Ave. and part of 121 Jersey Ave. in New Brunswick. The 131 Jersey Ave. site is currently contaminated.