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Crowd Braves Heat to Address Hospital Addition

The Bronxville Planning Board faced a packed house last night as they continued to consider a proposed addition to Lawrence Hospital.

At issue is a proposed 39,000 square foot addition on the northeast portion of the hospital's three-acre footprint. The $34.4 million dollar project will add seven new jobs to the hospital and will not add any new entrances or exits to the campus.

The proposed three story cancer center would contain a radiation therapy center in the basement and a medical oncology infusion center on the first floor.

On the third floor of the new addition there will be six brand new state of the art operating rooms. Tim Hughes, the hospital's vice president for business development said these rooms would replace existing operating rooms, which he called functional. "The current operating rooms were built in the 1950's and work well but are clearly below today's standards, especially when it comes to size, " he said.

More than half a dozen present and former cancer patients came out in support of having a local cancer center.

"I have lung cancer," said Jodi Mrugalski. "I have had two surgeries and every two weeks I have to have tests and every three weeks I have to have chemo. I go to the city where I have to be dropped off in front of the building because I cannot walk blocks to the hospital. We need this cancer center in this area and for those of you who are against it, I hope you never have to use it," she said.

Noel Forgram, a lifelong Bronxville resident said the first time he went to Lawrence Hospital was in 1946 when he was 11 for a broken arm. Now a cancer patient, he advocated the new center, citing the difficulty of travel when one is afflicted.

Most of the opposition comes from residents of Westbourne and Stoneleigh, condominiums that will face the three story addition. Those residents are fearful of noise, traffic and are also unhappy about losing the view of open space to that of a brick building,

Helen Levitz, one of the most vocal in a long line of those opposed to the center, wanted everyone to know she is not against adding a cancer center. "This is a major makeover of the hospital, that is what we are addressing," she said. We want all of the patients to know we are not against having a cancer center here at all," she said

Jane Strachan presented planners with a petition against the proposal signed by 200 residents.

Jay Applebaum also spoke against the proposal. "Only a portion of this new structure will deal with cancer. I think they are calling it a cancer to generate support for the project and make anyone who would opposes it look bad," he said "I am not against adding a cancer center to Lawrence Hospital."

Larry Levitz noted that no one would want to "face an ugly brick structure on their doorstep. Why not relocate it. You have a viable alternative on the Palmer side of the hospital, why not consider it," he asked.

But Hughes said it is not feasible to consider locating the center on the other side of the building, which would face commercial properties as opposed to the residential properties the proposed addition faces. "Locating the center on the Palmer side will place the center too far away from essential support services like operating rooms, recovery rooms and other services," he said.

Hughes said the hospital began considering the project back in 2002, but it did not really gather momentum until approval was granted from the state in 2008.

The bulk of the $34.4 million price tag, $25.7 million will be financed by a bank, Hughes said. And additional $6.7 million will be covered by the hospitals cash reserves. The final $2 million was raised by contributions, Hughes said.

Attorney Kathy Zalantis, who represents Lawrence Hospital before the Planning Board, said that the next step in the process is to present the zoning variances the project will need. Among other variances, the project exceeds the rule that mandates the floor area does not exceed 1.5 percent of the acreage of the site. Zalantis said that the hospital will ask planners to refer the matter to the Village Zoning Board of Appeals for their recommendation. Zalantis said village planners received the proposal last November. Because of the size of the project, planners have examined the proposal in pieces carefully considering all aspects.

Although hospital officials are hopeful the planning board will sign off on the project and a building permit will be issued by the end of the year, the board did not make any recommendation after listening to more than two hours of comments from the audience.

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