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Huntington Station neighbors cite issues with rehab center

From left, Jerry Cirino, Rose SantoPietro, Joe McMenoman,

From left, Jerry Cirino, Rose SantoPietro, Joe McMenoman, Roy SantoPietro, Doreen Boccia, Richie Boccia and Ellen Dennis live on Birchwood Drive near Apex Rehabilitation and Healthcare. Credit: James Carbone

Residents of a Huntington Station street say they just want the rehabilitation center on their block to be a good neighbor.

Birchwood Drive residents have a list of grievances for Apex Rehabilitation and Healthcare: Heavy traffic and speeding cars driven by employees, idling ambulettes, odor from an on-site sewage treatment plant, drainage issues after heavy rains, and light pollution at night.

They also wonder why facility officials have not been held accountable to a town zoning board of appeals directive to address the issues, even though they have been cited for several violations.

“Someone dropped the ball,” said Joe McMenoman, 57, a lifelong resident of Birchwood Drive. “The ZBA added conditions to meet in order for them to expand years ago and they have just not responded.”

Residents are about to get some relief.

Town board members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol, and town public safety officials met with McMenoman and other neighbors to help remedy the situation. There also have been meetings between the town’s planning department and the attorney representing Apex, Michael McCarthy.

Town officials say blinds have been hung, someone from Apex has been designated to reach out to residents and a meeting with employees concerning speeding has been held.

The property at 78 Birchwood Dr. has been a home for elderly adults since 1949. Since 1957, the number of beds has gone from nine to the current 200, which was approved in 1979.

Town officials said the ZBA has jurisdiction over any alterations because the facility operates under a special use permit

In 2014, Apex was denied a variance to build a second floor and add 240 beds, but the special use permit was allowed to stand if conditions were met, including upgrading the sewer plant and closing an entrance on Birchwood Road and creating an entrance on Melville Road.

While the sewer plant was upgraded, residents say there are still problems and have been promised by Apex officials that sewage and drainage issues will be addressed once they are allowed to expand.

Town officials said Apex is exploring an option to install an entrance off Melville Road via the adjoining property to the south at 62 Melville Rd. that Apex recently purchased with plans to expand. This would allow them to close the entrance on Birchwood and bring them into compliance with the ZBA. Plans are expected to be submitted to the Planning Department by the end of this month.

McCarthy, the attorney for Apex, said he has counseled his clients to work with neighbors.

“They know the importance of community outreach,” McCarthy said. “They’re interested in being a good neighbor.”

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