A Neighbor Responds To Saratoga Hospital’s Expansion Plans

[JK: I invited Alice Smith to be a guest writer on my blog to respond to my piece on Saratoga Hospital’s planned Medical Office Building.  Alice lives in a neighborhood that will be impacted by the project.  She is a person of high integrity with a strong sense of social justice]

John

Thank you for reaching out to me.

A couple of years ago, when the expansion plan was defeated, the neighbors were not only upset about the plan itself, but also about the fact that the hospital never communicated with the neighbors, despite telling the public and the press that they “were working closely with the neighborhood”.   The whole project was kept very quiet.  Then we learned about the plan and there was an uproar.  The attitude of the hospital was “we’re going to build, no matter what yout think or how you are affected”.

This time around they realized that was a mistake and they are doing a tremendous public relations campaign to gain support.

The facts are still the same, except that they are being more professional in dealing with the neighbors and the public.

Beginning with the Comprehensive Plan, Chris Mathiesen is right.  The part referring to this re-zoning was passed at the end of the day, after a long tedious discussion about many changes in the city, and the impact of this change was (conveniently) not even noted.  Yes, it should be revised.

Second,  the proposed building is for doctor’s offices, as noted above.  I have no doubt it is more practical for the hospital to have them all in one building where they can collect the rent and have a much higher profit.

The fact that it costs money to meet certain standards to certify facilities for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement is just one of the expenses that the medical business has to deal with, and I’m sure they would have to reach similar standards for patients with private insurance as well.  With that said, they still have to  figure out how to make the highest profits.  I’m sure their financial experts consideredl those calculations when they chose the site on Morgan St for their expansion .

The hospital is a big corporation that needs to make money, whether it is for profit or not-for-profit,   which is fine,  – who doesn’t?

However, there are other options, such as building on the hill, which might not be as cost effective, but this does not entitle them to break rules and violate the rights of neighborhood residents.   The biggest assett a person has is his/her home.  Some homeowners are paying high mortgages to live in a nice neighborhood and their rights should be respected.

You mention the probability that D.A.Collins could sell the land for residential development.  We are not opposed to this.  The area is residential and we have no problem with anyone building residences.  If the purchase from multiple owners would be logistically and financially too complicated   -there are financial advisers who can handle those matters.

There are many other negative issues that were previously raised by neighbors, such as the need to add sidewalks,  street lighting, traffic, and flooding in the lower areas, but I won’t go into those details here.

There is a purpose for Zoning laws, and these laws should be respected  -even if  a big corporation such as the hospital thinks that the only way it can be more profitable is by rezoning.  Other options should be considered more seriously, such as building on the hill, but they have not been willing to even consider it and are telling the public there is no other way this can be done.  They will turn down possible every alternative.

John, the fact that the hospital is now reaching out to the community makes their proposal more appealing, but this does not change the reality that they are stepping on the rights of residents who don’t have the money or the political power to fight this, and I do hope that our elected officials can see clearly.   By the way, patients will not be saving money, they will be paying the same price for medical care.

Lastly, regardless of whether any corporation wants to build a  mall, or a roller coaster, a condo, or a hospital (profit or non-profit)-  this does not change the fact that certain rights should still be protected.

Although there has been a big change in their public relations approach, it is appreciated, but  civility does not mean “meet in the middle”.

Will end here for now.  I’m sure there will be a lot more about this in the near future, and I appreciate that you look at both sides of the issue.

12 thoughts on “A Neighbor Responds To Saratoga Hospital’s Expansion Plans”

  1. I appreciate the depth of thought and analysis Alice has brought to this explanation of residents’ concerns, and I agree wholeheartedly that the hospital should be reaching out to the neighbors and looking for mutually advantageous solutions. I remember well when the city decided to close off Perry Street and put in a “pocket park” and didn’t contact a single person on the street (it turned out fairly well, but we lost some parking spaces, which could easily have been avoided had they talked to us). I was wondering about what the “hill” is that she is referring to. Where is that? I also didn’t understand why residents are upset about sidewalks and street lights being added to a city street. I’m often frustrated by how many streets in the city don’t have sidewalks, like that section off south Broadway from Fenlon St. to Hamilton and Union. Fenlon street’s lack of sidewalks is downright dangerous. I don’t understand why suburban-style housing developments don’t include them either. It’s a throwback to the 50s and to suburban sprawl. It strikes me that multi-use development is desirable for avoiding sprawl — and has been the rallying cry of most progressive Democrats. Isn’t that why so many were against the parking garage proposed below city hall? Don’t we want our services in walking distance from our houses?

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  2. Ms. Smith,

    I sat through every one of the hearing at City Hall regarding the Hospital expansion and as I was working for the Mayor at the time I was unable to make any public comments. That said, I heard a very different version of your report. I won’t challenge your claim that initially, the hospital may not have included the neighbors as they likely should have. That said, once the neighbors made their concerns heard, I saw and heard a hospital pretty much bend over backward to hear those complaints and make adjustments, from the design of the building to planning for low lighting, to agreeing to keep a majority of the property undeveloped – landscaping it in a way agreed to by the neighbors.

    As for your claim that is is all about money, of course, money is to be considered. There is so much more to it. I could go through your complaints one by one yet I think it would be an exercise in futility as it seems you and others are not in the least bit interested in hearing it. You have determined that you have been mistreated and reality or the best interests of the hospital or the City be damned.

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    1. First, I’d like to know when you “saw and heard the hospital bend over backward to hear complaints and make adjustments”. The first communication I have ever received from the hospital came last week -in a letter dated Feb 27, 2019, explaining their plan. The next step would be for the hospital to talk and listen to neighbors, which is unlikely to happen. That is my definition of “communication”. It took the hospital about three years to get around to the first step.
      Moving on -of course there is a lot more to be considered. But you must be well informed to make a good argument. Your comment is a personal attack on our opposition to the hospital expansion, so I will stop right here.
      Note, if you are really interested, and you want some facts, I will be glad to talk with you. I sincerely mean it.

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      1. I was at every City Council meeting where this was discussed and where the presentations were made by the hospital. It was clear, at those meetings, that the hospital had taken into account the concerns of the neighbors by changing the footprint of the building, the lighting concerns and offering to include them in the landscaping of the remaining land.

        I’m sorry if you took this as a personal attack. What I shared is my observations of the people speaking against this proposal. It was for the most part angry, unopen to any discussion or mediation. I saw no willingness to look at any of the potential pros or a greater vision of what would be good for our city – just “We don’t want it” “go away”. “we will be against this no matter what you offer”. I’m sure your perception is different but that is what I saw.

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  3. Again, the first ever communication we received was a letter sent last month (2/27/19). I think we have to move on and stop arguing about “we said -they said” , especially with someone who is not affected by the issue. It’s a lot more complicated than agreeing about the lighting concerns or the footprint of the building. If you really sat through those meetings and listened -you would have more insight into the reason we oppose the project. Good night, I need some sleep.

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    1. I hope you had a good night’s sleep. First, I don’t live all that far from the hospital. Second, and more importantly, everyone in this city will be affected by the decision – just not in the way you are concerned about.

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      1. Gayle
        Where you live is not important
        What is important is that the city residents ability to obtain excellent health care is not impacted in any way by the construction of a 70000 square foot building with, at last heard ,a 300 car park in a residential neighborhood, despite a new bogus commercial citing.
        “Raze paradise and build a parking lot” still valid today.

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  4. I disagree, Mary. doctors having easy and quick access to the hospital can greatly impact the health care of a patient. If had attended last week’s meeting you would have heard two doctors give specific examples of where being a distance from the hospital could have had devastating effects

    It seems much of the concern is around traffic. Would you rather have the entire parcel filled with homes or townhomes where there would be traffic 24/7 as opposed to 8-5, m-f? Be careful what you wish for.

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    1. Gayle
      I wish for someone to look at this situation as to what is good for everyone. To transverse from hospital to Morgan street during most season would require use of a car. Thus making traffic worse than it already is. And there are other environmental issues as well.
      This issue has been Around since 2015 and there is little I am aware of, including Docs speaking for the hospital
      and not their own good.
      Please to be aware traffic is least of the issues facing the communities with this property invasion.
      Raze paradise,put up a parking lot

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      1. So, OK – let’s raze paradise and put in 40 houses with none of it left as natural or “paradise” as you call it. That’s better? Because that is what can happen if it is left as residential. 24/7 traffic, lights, no “paradise” left and all sort of congestion. As I said before – be careful what you wish for.

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  5. Some of us neighbors were talking about the urgency of a doctor going from west ave to Myrtle (about 0.1 mile). We agreed to join together and buy him a bycicle. It will be faster than taking an elevator down, walking through parking lot, Then walking from Morgan st to hospital

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    1. While I appreciate your humor, there are doctors (mine for example) who are over on Rt. 50 and others that are further out. Let’s be real if we’re going to have an honest debate.

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