Residents unhappy with planned health center
BY RANDALL WASZYNSKI
Citizens on residential roads near the planned opening of a Hudson River Healthcare facility on North Ocean Avenue voiced their concerns at the North Patchogue Fire Department on March 1. Over 70 residents, as well as Legis. Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) and representatives for congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-1) and Town of Brookhaven councilman Neil Foley (R-Patchogue), attended the event spearheaded by HRH.
“I have worked hard all my life to live in that neighborhood,” one resident said. “I don’t want the value of my home to be affected.”
The neighborhood consists of residential streets, where Harris Street and others sit on a roughly 1,100-foot stretch of land sandwiched between the busy roads Route 112 and North Ocean Avenue, just north of Sunrise Highway. Jones Street and Herbert Circle border the lot on the north and east, respectively, and the lot is clearly visible to adjacent homes. The lot had previously been a Verizon location.
The residents in attendance pleaded for the possibility of relocating the project to a more suitable location that doesn’t impede on the quality of life of residents and is accessible to a sewer district. Suggestions like the closed Pathmark and Patchogue Floral Fantasyland lots were shot down by Calarco for reasons such as improper zoning.
“Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy to find a place as you might think,” Calarco said. “There were two criteria Hudson River was looking at: to keep it in the 11772 zip code because the bulk of the patients come from there and to have it in a location that was both big enough and properly zoned to house the facility.”
The residents focused on the issues with the project that affect their quality of life as neighbors.
“We’re a neighborhood of many small children,” resident Audrey Ventimiglia said. “We have a lot of seniors, including myself. I’m guessing we’ll hear ambulances coming throughout the night. We’re concerned about increase in traffic on our neighborhood streets. Harris Street is a major cut-through, and so is Lincoln Road.”
Residents pointed out that traffic on Harris Street would significantly increase from drivers traveling toward the health center from Route 112. They also speculated that patients traveling by bus to the health center from Route 112 would increase foot traffic on Harris Street.
The last stop is scheduled for 6:13 p.m., and the health center plans to be open on weekdays until 8 p.m. This leads residents to believe that unwanted persons will wander around the neighborhood. “We’re all a bit concerned with those operating hours,” Ventimiglia said.
Conversation led to the lack of dialogue regarding the installation of a traffic light at the corner of Harris Street and North Ocean Avenue, though HRH’s traffic analysis concluded that there would not be a significant impact to traffic. The analysis involved the consideration of how much additional parking would be necessary to meet regulatory requirements for the estimated 240 daily patients and 60 daily staff, HRH’s engineer said.
But that conclusion felt insufficient to those listening. “Two-hundred fifty, on the upper side, a day are going to go on Harris Street,” said a resident who lives on Harris Street. “Two-hundred fifty cars. Verizon didn’t have that many people in that building, and they would come down my block.”
The Suffolk County Department of Public Works holds the jurisdiction of traffic lights on county roads, like North Ocean Avenue. The possibility of such an installation would depend on a warrant analysis that prompts that action, and the installation would be illegal if pursued anyway, said attorney Tim Shea, representing HRH. Shea also stressed that 250 people going to the health center does not necessarily mean that each of those cars will travel down Harris Street. “The majority of people will be coming from north and south [on North Ocean Avenue],” he said.
There have been previous meetings between these residents and HRH on the matter, and HRH demonstrated that they have adjusted plans based on concerns previously addressed: A chain-link fence will be installed along the north and east borders of the property, trees will be inserted on those edges of the property as visual and noise barriers, and the current septic system will be upgraded to an innovative wastewater management system.
But these adjustments to the plan only angered the crowd. “I don’t care how many trees you put there,” one resident said. “I don’t care how much you fix the outside of the building. An empty Verizon building is better to me than a health center.”
Foley’s representative said they want to move forward as transparent as possible. Despite multiple meetings, residents said there has been a lack of transparency on behalf of officials.
“There were calls in August 2016 that started it, and we were all told when we made those calls, ‘Don’t worry, this is all buried. It’s not going to worry you,’” resident Artie Schlett said. “Instead, you betrayed everybody and walked all over us.”
“There was no transparency,” Ventimiglia said. “That’s why so many folks are so upset tonight. We were not given a heads-up. We were also told that HRH was a done deal. Now you said it is not.”
The incorporation of a health center at the location on North Ocean Avenue is dependent upon an approval by the Town of Brookhaven planning board, a hearing which has not yet been scheduled.
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