East Hampton Town Board Fast-Tracks New Emergency Room Facility

An artists rendering of the new emergency facility that Stony Brook Southampton Hospital is planning to build on Pantigo Road. COURTESY PERKINS EASTMAN

A scramble by the East Hampton Town Board to grant Stony Brook Southampton Hospital a necessary approval before a state grant deadline this month sparked a heated argument at two recent meetings of the Town Board over the hospital’s plans to build a satellite emergency room on Pantigo Road.

The hospital needs to have received a determination about its potential environmental impacts by September 15, or it could lose a $10 million grant, its representatives have told the town.

The hospital did not bring its final plans to the town until earlier this summer and presented them to the town Planning Board in early August and to Town Board for the first time only last week.

Four of the five board members have said they are confident enough that the plans will not have major impacts on the Pantigo Road corridor and surrounding area to grant the needed determination at its work session on September 15.

But Councilman Jeff Bragman has said it is irresponsible of the town to make such a determination after a rushed review at two meetings. He has questioned the necessity of the 23,000-square-foot size of the building, said that a traffic study that was only presented to the Town Board on Tuesday morning would need more examination, and raised doubts about whether the facility will be able to provide significantly different care than a walk-in urgent care facility.

“I am not against the project, I am in favor of a diligent, rigorous environmental review,” Mr. Bragman said on Tuesday. “Yes … my inclination is that it’s too big for what it can do.”

“You can’t do an environmental determination before you’ve done the review,” he said. “That’s putting the cart before the horse.”

He has raised issues about the need for the facility if it won’t be able to handle serious heart attack and stroke patients who may need surgery.

Other board members have said the impacts of the facility on the health and care for the East Hampton community will be enormous and noted that the hospital has reduced the size of the proposed building from about 33,000 square feet to about 23,000 square feet. A traffic study, first prepared in 2018 for the larger building and updated to the smaller one this week, found that the facility would be of little traffic impact overall because cars headed to it would be on the road anyway if it wasn’t there, to go to the hospital in Southampton.

Councilman David Lys said that perhaps the most impactful benefits of the building will be on the time and availability of first responders and emergency medical personnel.

“Our ambulance crews might take three hours to go to the hospital [and back],” he said.

“That’s time away from their family, away from their jobs, away from their lives. This location will relieve a lot of our ambulance corps from having to go all the way to the hospital for small medical issues” even if not from the most serious circumstances.
“Literally, half their day is gone on a single call,” Mr. Van Scoyoc added.

Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said that services the facility will be able to provide in East Hampton, like mammographies, will improve the likelihood that residents will seek preventative testing rather than being put off by the time consuming slog to Southampton in the now seemingly constant traffic jams.

“I think you are fear mongering here,” Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said to Mr. Bragman at the board’s September 1 meeting. “You are saying to the population that they will not be able to treat you if you have a stroke or a broken leg. I didn’t know you had such medical experience.

“This is not a mini-mall, this is not a restaurant,” Ms. Overby said, dismissing Mr. Bragman’s concerns about the size of the building. “This is a health care facility that will save a lot of people’s lives.”

The board told hospital representatives on Tuesday that it will have a resolution to issue the needed declaration for the property at its next work session.