Hospital Gets 50-Year Lease at Ball Field

One of two Little League fields at a town-owned site in East Hampton, where a new emergency medical facility has been planned. David E. Rattray

The East Hampton Town Board has voted to approve the lease of a town-owned parcel on Pantigo Place in East Hampton for the construction of an emergency care facility. 

Having been urged by various officials at a public hearing last Thursday to do so — including the mayor of East Hampton Village, the chief of the Montauk Fire Department, and the chairman of the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation — the board voted to approve the lease at a meeting later that day.

The Southampton Hospital Association, which will build and operate the facility, will sign a 50-year lease for 40 Pantigo Place at a cost of $20 per year and hold an option for a 25-year extension and, upon its completion, an additional 24-year extension. 

The $35 million facility, for which New York State will provide a $10 million grant, will displace two playing fields that are used for Little League games, among other events. The association has pledged up to $1.7 million for the construction of two new lighted ballfields and associated amenities on property to be provided by the town. 

Parts of the structure of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital are nearly 80 years old, Robert Chaloner, its president and chief executive officer, told the board, and the long-range plan is to build a new facility on the State University’s Stony Brook Southampton campus, farther to the west. “Accessibility to the hospital is currently a challenge” for people to the east of the existing hospital, he said, particularly in the tourist season. “We don’t see the traffic getting better anytime soon, and we believe that the best solution to that is to create a more robust health system with facilities that are able to care for people closer to home.”

The distance to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, and the crowded roadways, “are not only an issue in health care but in recruiting ambulance volunteers as well,” Mr. Chaloner said.

Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. of East Hampton Village read prepared remarks that included a sobering statistic. Last year, the mayor said, the village’s ambulance corps made 1,225 trips to the hospital. 

With the construction of an emergency-room facility in East Hampton, demand on volunteer emergency medical technicians and paid paramedics in East Hampton Town would be reduced, allowing them to get ambulances back into rotation sooner, to respond and treat other patients sooner, and, in the case of the volunteers who make up the great majority of those running calls, to return to home or work sooner.  

“This project has our full support,” the mayor said. “The time is now to bring our community hospital to East Hampton. Not later, today.” 

“I can only echo some of the sentiment,” said Chief Vincent Franzone of the Montauk Fire Department. “I’ve got 30 personnel that run 762 calls,” he said of Montauk’s volunteer ambulance crews, citing last year’s total. “Think about the time frame it takes to do that. The numbers are unimaginable to get that done.” 

And, he said, without the construction of the East Hampton emergency facility, the added travel time to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital itself, if and when it moves west, could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. “If we have to go even farther . . . it’s just going to make it that much harder for our personnel and the residents of our town.”

Jay Levine, a Montauk resident who serves on Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s board of directors, also emphasized the importance of short transport times to a medical emergency’s outcome. Should one have a stroke in the summer, he said, he or she might not arrive at the hospital for 90 minutes or more. “My prognosis is not good in that time frame,” he told the board. “If we can cut that in half,” chances for recovery rise significantly. “I implore you, please approve this lease agreement with the hospital,” he said. 

Mr. Chaloner told the board that a site on Stephen Hand’s Path in East Hampton had also been discussed, but “we prefer the Pantigo site location. It’s already adjacent to doctors’ offices. Keeping doctors near each other . . . encourages the doctors to work together.” 

Martin Drew, a Springs resident, advised the board not to decide in haste. “We don’t have a site for the ballfields” that would be displaced by the emergency facility, he said, “but you want to give this up to the hospital. . . . The reality is, you’ve got to answer some questions before you just give this away.” 

Henry Murray, chairman of the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation, answered that the Pantigo Place location is greatly preferable to Stephen Hand’s Path. “The reason it is sited where it is, is because it is centrally located in East Hampton Township,” he said. “It really has to be in this site, because it’s adjacent to the current health care center, where we have doctors’ offices. . . . The people of East Hampton deserve it, and they deserve it where they can get to it without traveling all the way to the west end of the township.” 

Mr. Franzone, adding that his son plays baseball, said, “I have to agree that we need to come up with a plan and have that in place, as well . . . but I believe the board will do the right thing and have that accomplished. Please pass this,” he said of the lease. “We do need it.” 

The hearing was closed, and the board later voted to approve the lease.