Oceanside residents, Mount Sinai hospital clash over plans for parking expansion


In a packed public hearing of the Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals on May 15, residents and representatives of Mount Sinai South Nassau sparred over the hospital’s plans to expand parking on its Oceanside campus. The hospital had requested the postponement of the hearing from May 1, for a special exception for parking in a front-yard setback bordered by Washington Avenue, Nassau Parkway, Oswald Court and Oceanside Road.

The hospital plans to build an 800-space parking garage that was approved by the town in 2018, as part of a $30 million investment to address parking challenges. The construction of the garage is scheduled to begin this fall and will take about nine months to complete. Once it is finished, combined with surface parking, the total parking capacity will exceed 2,000 spots.

The parking garage would be built over an existing hospital parking area. It would primarily serve hospital employees, visitors and patients and address current parking shortages. The hospital first plans to demolish 10 homes on hospital property to build a 152-spot parking lot. During construction of the garage, the hospital will lose 200 spaces currently used by employees. To mitigate this, the plan is to demolish houses that the hospital owns on Nassau Parkway and Washington Avenue to create temporary surface parking.

“The hospital believes that the parking garage approved by the board in 2018, which will be constructed at the hospital’s expense, will allow for more than adequate onsite parking at the hospital in the future,” John Anzalone, an attorney representing the hospital, said at the meeting. “The parking garage will be built after the additional surface parking is constructed at the hospital since such parking is needed to compensate for the stalls being temporarily displaced on site while the parking garage is being constructed.”

The surface parking is in addition to the interim four employee shuttles that accommodate nearly 270 offsite stalls in Rockville Centre, of which 120 stalls have been added since 2019, hospital officials said.

“The residents pushed for and got resident-only parking in the streets surrounding the hospital,” Joe Calderone, the hospital’s senior vice president of communications and development, said. “In order to park, our employees previously used to park on the street. This is to try to address our employees having a place to park. We rent a space in the village of Rockville Centre parking lot 12. We run, at our own expense, a shuttle bus up and down that lot for our employees throughout the day. We’re already incurring quite a bit of expense right now to address the parking issues that we have there currently and eventually when the parking garage is done. We no longer will have to run that shuttle which puts extra time on the commute for our employees.”

Hospital officials said the proposed lot for surface parking must be constructed and in operation by August or September, paving the way for the parking garage’s fall groundbreaking. They emphasized their commitment to minimizing disruption by creating buffer zones with vegetation around the new parking areas.

“We have promised and we’ll do what we’ve done in the past, which is to put up a very substantial buffer zone of vegetation,” Calderone said. “Once the houses go down and the surface parking is complete, they’ll be a very substantial part of vegetation so that you won’t even see the cars on the street on Nassau Parkway or Washington Avenue.”

Plans for the parking garage include internal traffic circulation and curb cuts to minimize impacts on external traffic flow, hospital officials added.

Residents who live near the hospital voiced opposition to the expansion, citing concerns over increased traffic congestion, safety hazards, and the encroachment of the hospital into residential areas. They called for a more balanced approach that takes into account both the hospital’s needs and the concerns of residents.

“You’re going to increase our taxes because now that town is losing 10 houses, but they’re not going to get home taxes on, so now our taxes are going to increase,” Oceanside resident Anthony Debonis told the appeals board. “I understand they don’t want to pay Rockville Centre for busing people over to the lots. That’s kind of their problem, not ours. Would any of you like the houses across the street from you knocked down and to put up a parking lot?”

Andrew Triolo, the hospital’s vice president for facilities, addressed residents’ concerns, stating that a traffic study had been conducted in 2018 and that the proposed parking garage would meet the hospital’s operational needs. He emphasized that hospital officials regularly communicate with Oceanside Road School, which sits across the street, regarding safety measures and planned improvements to traffic flow and emergency department access.

“We have security officers who helped cross children who are walking down Oswald Court,” Triolo said. “We have a security officer on Washington Avenue, on One Healthy Way, and as during any time that school is in session as far as arrival and dismissal, in order to keep the safety of the students that are walking across right-aways.”

Residents also expressed concerns about the loss of green spaces and the potential negative impact on the quality of life in the neighborhood. Residents highlighted the potential strain on pedestrian safety and the gradual erosion of the neighborhood’s character.

“As you consider this, I would just emphasize the quality of life for the community,” Rockville Centre resident Rob Revis said. “There used to be much more pedestrian traffic in the community when I was growing up. Halloween is now a shell of its former self in the area. I attribute that mainly to parents trying to keep their kids away from all the parking. The encroachment that the hospital has made into the terraces has brought down the quality of life for families trying to bring up children in the area. I’d urge the hospital and the board to come back with perhaps a little bit more of an ingenious plan for how they can temporarily create the spaces they need until they can create the parking garage that’s required.”