Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey may build on school site

The first day at Lincoln Annex School in 2016. 
Photo by FacebookThe first day at Lincoln Annex School in 2016. 

The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJ), which is part of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, is looking to potentially build the new Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey on the land currently occupied by the Lincoln Annex School, a facility of approximately 750 students in the New Brunswick Public School District.

The $750 million cancer institute, in partnership with New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) and RWJ, was first announced in June, according to a press release from RWJBarnabas Health. It will be the largest cancer institute in New Jersey. 

“The Cancer Pavilion will be a model for cancer care delivery on the East Coast, bringing together the three mission areas of academic medicine — research, education and patient care — all under one roof,” said Barry H. Ostrowsky, president and chief executive officer of RWJBarnabas Health, according to the release. 

The release also said that the pavilion would be located directly across from the already existing RWJ and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey campus, but its exact location was still being determined. 

DEVCO President Chris Paladino responded to a question about the Lincoln Annex School, which is right across the street, being a proposed site for the project at a press conference on Tuesday, as he said it is a site being talked about for the project.  

“It’s just really simple. The Cancer Institute needs to be directly connected to the existing hospital facility by a bridge,” Paladino said, according to a video provided by New Brunswick Today. “We can’t cross the train tracks. We have to be able to move the patients back and forth.”

On Monday, members of the neighborhood met to discuss the rumored situation and what they could do to prevent it. 

“Robert Wood Johnson will likely attempt a deal that is not straight money, (it) likely will involve a trade of land,” said Charlie Kratovil, the editor of New Brunswick Today and former mayoral candidate. “It would be very bad for the neighborhood if the Lincoln Annex must close before a replacement school is ready to open — 750 students will have nowhere to go except other overcrowded schools."

At the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, the Board was questioned about the selling of the Lincoln Annex School. 

When asked if any offers had been made, board attorney George F. Hendricks denied any current plans. 

As board attorney, Hendricks said he handles things such as transactions, leasing and contracts. He said that if anything was being developed, he would know about it. 

“I know the rumor’s out there. Obviously there’s been some substantial proposal put forward by the state of New Jersey about building a cancer center,” Hendricks said. “Where it’s going to be located, I don’t know, but I’m telling you officially, as the board attorney, I know nothing about this.”

Board President Diana Solis then confirmed that they are aware that DEVCO is interested in that location for the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. 

“There was a meeting last week. DEVCO called our district,” Solis said. “(We) had a meeting with Mr. Jannarone and Mr. LoDolce where the possibility was discussed. However, like Mr. Hendricks has informed you, there’s nothing on paper. There’s no official offer.”

In the end, the Board of Education said that if any contract were to actually be made, it would have to be brought to the attention of the public.

“I think there would be money changing hands, there would have to be resolutions, it would have to be posted in our agenda, there would have to be hearings if there is a contract to purchase or sell,” Hendricks said. “It always comes before the public. That’s generic. This is no different.”