Dunkirk residents wish to keep hospital

OBSERVER Photos by Nicole Gugino Sandra Tapasto, left, called Brooks Memorial Hospital the “life-giving pulse” of the Dunkirk community at Tuesday's Common Council meeting.

The only difference of opinion at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting was whether Brooks Memorial Hospital should have moved elsewhere within the city of Dunkirk or not at all.

Spurred by Resolution 102, opposing the hospital’s decision to relocate to East Main Road in the town of Pomfret, the Dunkirk community attended the meeting to express their shared opposition to the move.

Dunkirk Historian Diane Andrasik explained the history and tradition the hospital leaves behind.

“In 1886, the Young Men’s Association formed a group in Dunkirk. It was a civic-minded group in Dunkirk, comprised of young professionals who lived and worked in the city of Dunkirk; doctors and lawyers and bankers.

The group dedicated itself to the furthering of ‘the material and intellectual well-being of people in Dunkirk’ in order to ‘make permanent improvements in the city,'” she explained

“… In 1898, the widow and daughters of Horatio Brooks, the founder of the Brooks Locomotive Works and Dunkirk’s first mayor, gave their impressive mansion at Sixth and Central and its property to the group for the purpose of establishing Dunkirk’s first hospital. … In the 1940s, that building and its annex had outgrown its usefulness as a hospital; it was, of course, an old mansion. Again, civic-minded people in the city of Dunkirk worked to build a modern hospital in the place of that older building. …

“The key words here, I think, are the words that emphasize ‘the city of Dunkirk.'”

Sandra Tapasto called Brooks the “life-giving pulse” of Dunkirk and emphasized the people are more important than beauty when it comes to care at a hospital.

Gary Sedlmeyer pointed out the traffic on Route 20 as a huge problem for the new location due to congestion and the possibility of a future roundabout and emanating medians at the intersection with Route 60.

An emotional Rebecca Yanus, development director, told the crowd the city did all it could to convince the hospital to stay in the city.

“When I first came on to this position in September 2016, I was given a timeline of two weeks to come up with alternative locations for Brooks Hospital. So, all of our departments worked together to come up with locations in two weeks. I thought we put together a tremendous presentation and we made a lot of cases for the history, the fact that we have infrastructure already in place, we have locations, we have these brownfield sites. I hear what all of you are saying and we tried very, very hard,” she said.

Danny McGill said, although he knows this is not a Common Council decision, he would like to see something done.

A town of Pomfret resident, posed the questions of how the hospital’s move will impact all of the doctors who have moved to be close to the Central Avenue location, and furthermore, how their patients will be affected. In addition, she asked what people can do.

When it came time to vote on the resolution, councilmembers thanked all those who spoke up and unanimously approved it. First Ward Councilman Don Williams Jr., the resolution’s sponsor, said the resolution and a transcript of comments will be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo, State Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell. Third Ward Councilman Adelino Gonzalez said anyone who is upset with the decision should call their state elected officials.

Mayor Willie Rosas said he is also not happy with the decision, but has placed his sights on repurposing the facility.

“I want the residents to know the city and my administration did everything and anything possible to keep the hospital here in the city. Unfortunately, that decision does not lie with the city and there was nothing we could do. They have their own governing body and they decided this is what they want to do. My focus now, as mayor, is the repurposing of that property. I would like residents to know we have reached out to the governor’s office through a letter, basically letting them know our sentiments and our feeling that they are using state funds to move the hospital outside the city, essentially leaving a whole downtown city block vacant,” he said.