Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola and NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan announced a “non-binding” letter of intent to join forces and create a health care network in the greater metropolitan area.

“This first step represents a momentous milestone for Winthrop. As Long Island’s first community hospital, we have grown into a major academic medical center, and with our services in such demand, it became obvious that we needed to expand further, physically and geographically,” John Collins, Winthrop’s president and chief executive said in a statement Thursday.

Winthrop was founded in 1896 by a group of physicians and has grown into a 591-bed teaching hospital and home to a major, 7,500-square-foot trauma center.

The main campus includes a dialysis center; a CyberKnife facility where precision radiation treatment is performed for cancer and its Cancer Center for Kids. Elsewhere in Nassau and Suffolk the hospital operates ambulatory facilities, including a newly expanded surgical center in Garden City and its Specialty Center in Deer Park, hospital officials said.

“We have held discussions with a number of major health care systems in the region, and NYU Langone represents the best partner,” Collins said.

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Dr. Robert I. Grossman, dean and chief executive of NYU Langone Medical Center, said talks with Winthrop mark the beginnings of a new health care system in the region.

“We are excited for the opportunity to bring together two great medical centers to better serve our patients in the neighborhoods where they live and work,” Grossman said.

NYU’s main medical campus is on the east side of Manhattan and maintains more than 175 ambulatory sites throughout the region. The medical center also is affiliated with more than 40 medical practices throughout Long Island and Queens.

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Both sides Thursday said talks have begun in earnest with an intention of negotiating and signing definitive agreements and seeking regulatory approvals.