A plan to expand Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson has received a key approval from village officials, despite opposition from some residents who object to a proposal to clear trees to make room for additional parking.
The village planning board voted 3-0 on July 14 to approve a site plan for the $78.7 million project. Mather officials have said they plan to nearly double the size of the hospital's 30-year-old emergency department, from 13,500 square feet to 26,000 square feet, and expand parking by 163 spaces.
Port Jefferson Mayor Margot J. Garant told Newsday the village is talking to Mather officials about upgrading stormwater drains to help stem chronic flooding in the village. The hospital also needs a building permit before it starts construction, she said.
In a statement to Newsday, Mather executive director Kevin McGeachy said he was "pleased that the Village of Port Jefferson Planning Board approved our project for the construction of a new emergency department and expansion of surgical services. There are some contingencies we have to meet but we are looking forward to beginning construction of this project that is critical to meeting the needs of the communities we serve.”
McGeachy previously said construction is expected to take two years, adding expansion is necessary to modernize the hospital and meet future needs.
Mather, formerly John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, joined the Northwell Health network in January 2018.
Some village residents had opposed the proposal, saying the hospital's plan to expand parking would include cutting down dozens of trees, which they said also would worsen flooding.
Ana Hozyainova of Port Jefferson told Newsday that Mather's offer to plant more than 100 new trees was unacceptable. She said many of the new shrubs, grasses and trees would include nonnative plants.
“To me, that does not represent even an attempt at replacing” the lost trees, Hozyainova said. “There is absolutely no comparison between a forest and a managed landscape. ... [New plantings] will take decades to become 60 years old like the ones that are currently in the forest.”
She added that clearing the trees might affect wildlife.
Garant praised Mather officials for agreeing to replace trees. She said the hospital's current storm drains are decades old and obsolete, and would be replaced with a new system designed to handle more powerful storms.
“They’re leaving a very green buffer. They’re revegetating the site. They’re also working with us on the stormwater recharge area,” Garant said.
“We’ve been partnering with Northwell Health and Mather for five years," she said. "I consider them an integral and very important part of the community.”
Planning board chairman Ray DiBiase declined to comment.