Construction on the proposed Mount Sinai South Nassau care center in Wantagh remains on hold after the Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals opted to adjourn a vote on an appeal for the project due to time restraints.
MSSN officials plan to invest $35 million in the former Verizon building at 2020 Wantagh Ave. and convert it into a 60,000-square-foot multi-specialty health care center. An appeal with multiple variances, or exceptions to zoning laws, came before the board at the March 2 meeting.
The board has not yet made a decision on the proposal. Attorney Frederick Parola, representing local homeowners pro bono, filed a formal request for adjournment on the appeal due to time constraints. Parola indicated that residents did not have adequate time to review the full scope of the request.
“This is the first time that this matter has been on your calendar,” Parola, of the Wantagh-based firm Parola & Gross LLP, told the board at the meeting. “The community in the immediate area … has requested an opportunity to get their ducks in order to … make a determination as to which way they expect to go. There was not enough time when notice was received for them to do that.”
Parola, describing the case as “very sophisticated,” added, “so we respectfully request an adjournment.”
Attorney William Bonesso, who represented MSSN, agreed with the request for a month-long adjournment, and the board rescheduled the item for April 6 at 3 p.m. Community members can attend the meeting or stream it online.
During the March 2 meeting, Board of Appeals Chairman David Weiss reminded residents that they could submit letters of support or opposition to the board before the April meeting. “We accept mail, email and faxes,” Weiss said. “Anybody who wants to submit any documents or arguments, in support or opposition — that all becomes part of our file, and we review all of them before we make any decision.”
Typically, appeals are decided within a day, but if that does not happen, it is placed on a reserve calendar and heard at a later date, Weiss said.
If the appeal and other regulations are approved, the Wantagh facility would be located near the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway, Sunrise Highway and Wantagh Parkway. Hospital officials previously told the Herald that construction could take up to 24 months.
The proposed facility would operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to an August 2020 presentation by the hospital. It would also be open on weekends based on patients’ needs. It would provide services including cardiology, digestive health, oncology, women’s health, cancer care, dermatology, neurology, endocrinology, lab services, pain management, pulmonary care, non-invasive surgery and urology.
The Wantagh building would host only ambulatory services, with no overnight beds. It would not provide emergency ambulances or offer behavioral health or drug treatment services.
The plan for the new facility previously met with some criticism from residents. Hospital officials met with the Wantagh-Seaford Homeowners Association in 2017 to discuss the project, and association President Ella Stevens previously told the Herald that residents “were up in arms” about parking and potential traffic at the time.
In 2020, Cameron Engineering & Associates conducted a traffic study for the hospital, and determined that the visitor parking requirement would be 81 spaces, combined with 136 needed for staff, a total of 217. That year, MSSN purchased two adjacent parcels to use for overflow parking.
The project has inspired online petitions of both support and opposition. As of March 6, over 1,000 people had signed a Change.org petition supporting the new facility, and 400 had registered their opposition, also on Change.org.
Some residents say they are still trying to understand what services would be available at the facility. “I think it needs to be clear what [MSSN is] actually going to be doing with this building,” said Margaret Silberger, the immediate past president of the Kiwanis Club of Wantagh. “And maybe they weren’t clear, you know, some time ago, but time has passed.”
Joseph Fennessy, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors and a Wantagh resident, previously stated that he supported construction of the facility. This “will greatly benefit Wantagh and the entire South Shore,” Fennessy said. “Our neighbors will be able to receive quality, comprehensive care close to home.”
MSSN officials also hosted a virtual informational session about the project on March 1.