Greentree Foundation representatives called for an environmental review of North Shore University Hospital’s planned advanced surgical pavilion during a three-hour Town of North Hempstead Board of Zoning and Appeals hearing last week.
“Greentree does not argue that the hospital should not be able to build on their property,” said Jeffrey Forchelli, an attorney representing the foundation. “However, the state and town took great measures to ensure that the groundwater and the precious ecological system in the North Hills area was protected by enacting the laws limiting construction in Special Groundwater Protection Areas, Critical Environmental Areas and Aquifer Protection Overlay Districts.”
North Shore University Hospital Executive Director Dr. Alessandro Bellucci said the review was unnecessary and if required would delay the already two-and-a-half year project by at least a year.
“We understand Greentree’s concerns about the environment,” Bellucci said in an interview. “We are environmentally conscious, as environmental health is a component of community health. We have addressed those issues, including the impact on the water supply, and I think we have addressed those issues successfully. The risk of going further into a full environmental impact study would delay the construction of the building by probably a year to a year and a half.”
Attorney Michael Sahn, representing Northwell Health, and Forchelli representing, Greentree Foundation, had brought doctors, architects and environmental experts to the July 18 hearing, which focused on the environmental impacts of the proposed $342 million expansion instead of the building itself.
Forchelli said Greentree Foundation officials were concerned that the project could impact the environment, particularly the Special Groundwater Protection Area in which the hospital is located, the lifespan of birds who could fly into the seven-story building and Greentree’s 400 acres of trees, ponds and other wildlife.
“In view of everything that has been submitted, this board should issue a Positive Declaration and require Northwell Health to complete an Environmental Impact Statement in compliance with all SEQRA requirements including a public scoping session,” Forchelli said. “Not until the process is completed and Environmental Findings are made should the Board of Zoning Appeals consider this application.”
The board, which also held a hearing in October 2017 about the planned expansion, continued the decision to the Aug. 15 meeting.
Cannon Designs architect Andrew Pecora said multiple changes have been made to the exterior of the building since the previous hearing, including the addition of reflective material to the exterior of the higher floors, indenting the seventh floor where the mechanical systems will now be housed by about 10 feet and shifting the cooling tower on the roof to the center of the building to reduce the overall visual impact of the 138-foot-high expansion along Community Drive.
According to Forchelli, the hospital will require about 98,000 gallons of water per day.
Sahn said Northwell did not have a letter from the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District attesting to its ability provide the water needed by the building, he was told by water district officials one would be available for trustees within the week.
The proposed building is planned to house the hospital’s intensive care units as well as operating rooms, Bellucci said, including 18 new operating rooms and multiple floors of private intensive care units.
Currently, the hospital has 23 operating rooms, and all of them were built in the 1970s or earlier, Bellucci said, and of the 79 existing intensive care units, half do not have a window and four rooms are outfitted to hold up to four patients.
“We have a dire need for private rooms on the floors,” Bellucci said in an interview. “That’s what our patients demand, that’s what’s important for infection control. As we have all the ICUs in the new building, we can then remodel the current hospital structure to offer more private rooms.”