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Bronxville Zoning Board Looks At Lawrence Hospital

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. - The Bronxville Zoning Board of Appeals got its first glimpse of the proposed addition to Lawrence Hospital Center on Tuesday night.

The ZBA listened to approximately three hours of comments from hospital officials, doctors, architects attorneys and members of the public.

ZBA Chairman Richard Szypula made it very clear that the board would listen to both sides in a process that suited the board. He would not allow Lawrence Hospital attorney Kathy Zelantis to speak until after residents were allowed to express their concerns.

Those residents, many of whom live across a narrow street from the site of  the proposed addition, have organized into a group, dubbed  themselves the Committee to Save Bronxville’s West Side and hired Manhattan attorney Christopher Rizzo of Carter, Ledyard and Milburn to represent them. The group and its attorney have asked Lawrence Hospital to provide an Environmental Impact Statement, in order to comply with state mandates.

Rizzo argues such a document would have to weigh the impact the proposed addition would have on it’s neighbors and explain why any alternative would not be possible. But hospital officials counter that an EIS is only mandated if the Planning Board requests it, and that has not happened.

The Planning Board agreed last month to have the hospital begin to present the project to the ZBA although the board has yet to sign off on the project that has been before it since March. The project needs several variances to town code, including one that would allow the addition to exceed the set back requirements from the street.

Residents have been packing into Village Hall every month since then. Although the residents have made it clear that they do not oppose an addition to the hospital to provide cancer care and upgrade the outdated operating rooms, they are opposed to the location of the addition. Specifically they oppose the noise chillers on the roof of the addition that will bring loud sounds into their homes, parking for construction workers, and the loss of green space surrounding the hospital just to name a few.

Szypula asked hospital officials why those very chillers could not be moved to the other side of the hospital roof, but architect Tim Fecker explained that the complicated cooling system would not allow placement in any other location.

Fecker also outlined the scope of the three story addition slated to be located on the northeast portion of the hospitals building.  The addition which will add an estimated 39,000 square feet of space to the building will mostly be devoted to a cancer center. The basement floor will be the site of a radiation therapy center, and the first floor will be devoted to an oncology infusion center.

Most urgently needed, hospital officials said, is renovation of the hospital's six operating rooms that were constructed in the 1950s. One resident, Dr. Edward Luboja, a retired dentist, wondered why the hospital could not reconfigure the location of some of the services like the operating rooms, in order to make the footprint of the building smaller, and therefore create no disturbance to its neighbors.

“I love this hospital, I have been in this community for 61 years,” Luboja said. “I don’t see any reason that all of the operating rooms have to be located in one place.”

But hospital officials said it would be tough to have to bring surgical patients to different floors for pre and post surgical care. Before the end of the meeting, Hospital President Edward Dinan said that although he is frustrated that the approval process is taking so long, he is committed to seeing it through.

“We knew it was going to be long process, but we believe in the project,” Dinan said. “The objections are being made by a limited number of people.  The majority of residents support the addition.” Minutes before, resident Jane Strachen gave the ZBA a petition with 175 signatures from residents and businesses in opposition to the proposed addition in it’s current form.

Another resident Helen Levitz, who has attended every meeting disagreed with Dinan noting that the majority of residents in the buildings in Alger Court oppose the proposed addition to be built out to the sidewalk on Pondfield and Parkway Road.

The Committee to Save Bronxville's Westside has provided petitions of 200 individuals for the Planning Board in addition to the 175 for the Zoning Board," Levitz said. "The movement is only gaining momentum and recently Parkway Road home owners have joined our group.  They are very worried about the implications of removing 31 mature trees and the green space and paving it over and fear this may mean morewater into the river and then into their basements during large rain storms."

The Planning Boards and Zoning Boards will take up the matter again at their respective November meetings.

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