New Hospital A Mammoth Undertaking

If a new hospital is built on the Stony Brook Southampton University campus, it will likely forever alter local traffic patterns, several local officials agree.

Last month the state gave its OK to lease 23 acres on the campus. (See accompanying article) Governor Andrew Cuomo — and, of course, the $250 million it will cost — are all that stand in the way of a new Southampton Hospital.

The new structure will likely be located just south of County Road 39 and west of Tuckahoe Road, where the recreational fields are currently situated.

The area where the gym is now will likely be used for out buildings and parking. Robert Chaloner, Southampton Hospital’s president and CEO, has previously expressed his concern about the Tuckahoe Road/CR 39 intersection, and with good reason, said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

“They don’t want people crossing over that road with the railroad tracks and all,” he said.

Schneiderman said his preference would be to run traffic underneath Tuckahoe Road and the tracks at the CR 39 intersection. Compounding things further, ambulances would be coming and going, and time would be at a premium.

During the recent U.S. Open golf tournament, several measures were taken to improve traffic flow, including changing traffic lights or shutting them off, re-routing traffic, building a pedestrian bridge, and making use of shuttle buses and trains.

The current 125-bed hospital facility on Meeting House Lane in Southampton Village, set in the midst of a residential neighborhood near ocean beaches, has been out of place for decades. It was originally built 100 years ago, when farmland and meadows dotted what was a sparsely populated neighborhood.

Nowadays it’s occupied by millionaires driving Land Rovers on their way to the country club who have to compete for road space with ambulances, hospital employees, and visitors.

But bringing the traffic to the college campus, along with an expected increase in students and medical personnel, would likely mean the town will face more challenges even after the new building is completed.

Closing Tuckahoe Road, an unpopular idea when it was broached a couple years ago, will likely come up again.

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club members asked the town to consider closing that portion of Tuckahoe Road that travels through the golf course. That’s on the north side of CR 39 and the railroad tracks.

“I know people cherish that road,” Schneiderman pointed out, “but with the hospital and railroad tracks and all, an underpass makes a lot of sense.”

Brett Pickett, the president of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, told an overflow crowd at a Southampton Town Board meeting two years ago that the club would reimburse the town if a portion of Tuckahoe Road that runs through the golf course were to be closed. He also revealed an alternate plan to reroute traffic.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg spoke to Schneiderman on behalf of the golf club and offered the town a package of incentives to reroute some of the Tuckahoe Road traffic away from the course.

“Jay’s a pretty tough negotiator,” Pickett said. “He’s made very clear to us from the beginning that he’d entertain something like this only if it was a win for the entire community. We know we would have to present an overall plan that is beneficial to the entire community.”

Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said he has not been apprised of plans the hospital or the town may have as to the placement of the hospital complex, but Gregor has been critical of the plan in general.

“I don’t think it is the right place for it,” he said of the college campus. The main entrances to the campus both use Tuckahoe Road. The intersection of Tuckahoe and Montauk Highway is in a hurricane zone, he said. “I’ve seen it flooded many, many times.”

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