The Weeks Woodlands civic group is awaiting a decision from the appellate court as it proceeds in its lawsuit to halt the expansion of St. Mary’s Hospital for Children.
Construction on the Bayside facility began in October of 2010, despite opposition from Weeks Woodlands. Predominantly taking issue with surrounding zoning laws and the size of the project, Weeks Woodlands vice president Tim Vance argued there is a limited right to expand St. Mary’s and its construction team overstepped its bounds.
St. Mary’s treats children with serious illnesses or injuries, providing rehabilitation and specialized medical care to over 4,000 children every day. The original building, constructed in the late 1950s, caters to children suffering from diseases prevalent during that time period. According to St. Mary’s spokesperson Leslie Johnson, the space is in dire need of an update, coinciding with technological advances.
While the new pavilion will not add patient rooms to the 97-bed facility, Johnson feels the expansion will “right size” the space. Because patients’ stays average between three to five months, Johnson believes the upgraded 90,000-square-foot center will allow parents to rest by their children’s bedside and give patients a suitable amount of space to heal.
Construction crews are expected to complete the first phase of the project by October of this year. The second phase, commencing shortly thereafter, will refurbish and upgrade the hospital’s already existing structure.
Weeks Woodlands first went to court in early August of 2010 following a meeting with the vice president of Turner Construction — the company building the extension. According to Vance, the executive addressed him, saying, “We are going to make your lives miserable.” Vance alleged the VP alerted him Turner’s team would be working before hours, after hours and on the weekends. When Vance asked for quiet Sundays, the executive declined.
Vance said the construction team has lived up to the assertions, but calls to Turner went unanswered when The Courier attempted to verify Vances’ claims.
With the help of contributions from 120 families, Weeks Woodlands accrued funds to assist with its legal fees, which according to Vance have amassed to $100,000.
“We’re in it because it’s our neighborhood,” said Vance. “We want to prevent this problem in our neighborhood and other neighborhoods that are nearby.”
Vance believes that St. Mary’s has the right to expand, just not to the proposed degree.
“[St. Mary’s does] amazing work,” said Vance. “[Weeks Woodlands has] never hesitated to say that.”
According to Vance, the case has four defendants – St. Mary’s, the Department of Buildings (DOB), the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the New York State Dormitory Authority (DASNY). He alleged that the DOB granted the building permit, the DOH approved the building plans and the DASNY assisted with the loan package for the construction.
Vance alleged that a decision from appellate court would be returned in the near future.
The DOH claimed they are a respondent in the litigation, but could not provide any more information.
The DOB and DASNY could not be reached as of press time.