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Peconic hospital looks for parking options

The exterior of Peconic Bay Medical Center located

The exterior of Peconic Bay Medical Center located at 1300 Roanoke Avenue in Riverhead. (Aug. 21, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday/Joseph D. Sullivan

For Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, the prognosis is grim: the parking epidemic that has enveloped it and other hospitals is expected to persist.

Andrew Mitchell, president of the 214-bed hospital, says he has just about run out of options to meet ever-growing demands to expand the hospital, its services and its parking -- all in the same landlocked spot.

So he's turned to the town for creative assistance, and he hopes some of the area's big box stores will let the him use their lots.

"The hospital can't solve this problem on its own," Mitchell said. "We have to get help."

The hospital has opened satellite facilities, is looking at creating a major new center somewhere in eastern Brookhaven, and is talking to Riverhead Town officials about temporarily using the old National Guard armory lot a mile away with shuttle service -- none of which will solve its immediate parking problem.

Hospital visitors and staff use some of the empty space at stores a short walk away. The hospital leases 100 parking spaces from adjoining McGann-Mercy High School and has squeezed every space possible from its existing parking lots, including trying to accommodate about 1,200 employees in only 400 parking spaces.

None of that was thought of 61 years ago when the hospital opened along rustic County Route 58. Now the road, which was widened in 2010, is lined with fast-food restaurants, office buildings and shopping centers.

There is no nearby land to buy to expand parking, and an agreement that gives the hospital parking spaces will end in a year when an oncology treatment center is set to open on Route 58.

Meanwhile, the East End is aging and more emergency and orthopedic and rehabilitation services are required, meaning the number of patients goes up every year. The hospital had 46,000 patients last year, compared with 26,000 in 2004.

"We're the fastest-growing hospital on Long Island," Mitchell said. "This requires a solution between the hospital and the town and our neighbors on Route 58."

Mitchell's most promising option is to build a multistory parking garage over an existing hospital parking lot on Roanoke Avenue, which could be done by creating a parking district on Route 58. But that would require area businesses to agree to be taxed even though they already have sufficient parking.

At Mitchell's urging, town officials are starting to look into the problem. They say a parking district would open up new spaces and allow local stores to expand their buildings into their current parking lots, creating more sales space. "And, it would really be a good way of giving something back to the community," Mitchell said.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the town has agreed to help the hospital with a parking study and will work to convince store owners to allow hospital workers to park in their lots.

The hospital "would love for us to build them a parking garage, but that won't happen," Walter said. "But they're . . . the biggest employer in the town. Why not help them?"

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