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Hold Off on Hospital Site

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 20:49


At the moment, there appears to be just one local voice saying no to a proposed new hospital emergency annex on the site of two Little League fields centrally located off Pantigo Place in East Hampton. Stony Brook University Hospital, a public, state-run institution, hopes to operate an urgent emergency care facility there as a kind of adjunct to Southampton Hospital. The Town of East Hampton owns the Little League fields, which would be moved were the hospital annex come to pass. The town planning board is evaluating the plan, asking questions about traffic and what is referred to as “mission creep.”

From the start, we have had issues with the location of the treatment annex. Some emergency medical volunteers have said serious cases requiring an ambulance would still go to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. And, sure, the Pantigo Road site may be well placed for much of East Hampton, Amagansett, and Springs. But as this summer’s traffic backups have shown, this portion of State Route 27 is already functioning far beyond peak capacity. Already the town planning board has mentioned that traffic lights or whoa a roundabout might be called for.

We have to hand it to Charlie Whitmore for having the courage to speak out on behalf of the town’s Little Leaguers. It is almost an “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment, in which local officials have seemed blinded by the idea of a new medical center. Mr. Whitmore’s fundamental argument is that there are other places in East Hampton where an emergency room annex could be built, but there are none as ideal for youth sports.

Adding to concerns is that a Montaukett burial ground, which contained about 40 graves, was discovered nearby in 1917. Though such early-colonial-era graves were thought at the time to have been entirely excavated as well as disturbed by landowners and neighbors the Pantigo area should be treated with the greatest sensitivity. Any excavation in 1917 was basically a salvage operation.

Ball fields upon sacred land are, of course, far less intrusive than a medical complex, but the land might better be left alone at least until advances in archaeological technology make excavation faultless.

What is missing in all this is a clear position as to why the hospital annex absolutely has to be built on Pantigo Place at all. There may be a good reason, but neither Mr. Whitmore nor the planning board or public have heard it yet.

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