The public hearing for the construction of an Amber Court Assisted Living Community facility in Nesconset stirred-up debate Thursday night at the Town of Smithtown board meeting, with residents divided on if the facility should be built.
The proposed 90,000 square foot, 49 foot tall building would be located on Lake Avenue, north of Park Avenue.
Alzheimer’s Association Long Island CEO Mary Ann Malack-Ragonna said at Thursday’s meeting that assisted living facilities are a necessity throughout the county but are scarce, and the Town of Smithtown could set an example for what the rest of the county needs.
“Our job as a chapter and a community is to assist our Long Island families with the challenges of care giving for someone with Alzheimer’s disease … right now in Suffolk County we have one assisted living facility with assisted living program beds. This facility is located in Port Jefferson Station and typically there is a minimum of a one-year wait for admittance and at times as much as a two year wait. Facilities like Amber Court offering additional help beds are going to be needed all across Suffolk County and the process of creating a model facility can begin right here, right now in [the Town of] Smithtown,” she said.
Nesconset resident Pete VanDerlaske said at the meeting that the proposed location isn’t appropriate.
“Please note that I am not against any construction that assists the elderly, brings additional taxes, helps our economy with the creation of jobs and brings income into our town, but in my opinion the location of the site is really not appropriate,” he said.
Nesconset resident Joe Matura said after the meeting his main concern is the volume of traffic this facility would create.
“When all of my neighbors are sitting in our backyards on a Sunday afternoon or a Saturday afternoon and we’re trying to relax there’s going to be trucks going in-and-out, people going in-and-out,” he said. “Can you imagine what 347 and Lake Avenue is going to be like on Christmas? Easter? Thanksgiving? Hanukkah? Passover? If you’re family was there when would you go see them? You’re not going to see them when we’re at work, you’re going to come after 5 p.m., you’re going to come on a Saturday or a Sunday and any given holiday when I want to relax.”
Fellow Nesconset resident Robert Hagarty echoed Matura’s concerns and said the facility would bring more motor vehicle traffic to an area that is already accident-prone.
“There is multiple, numerous deadly collisions on this corner of [Route] 347 and Lake Avenue,” he said. “I’ve been there 25 years in my house, I’ve pulled people out of cars right there, the traffic is horrendous. I’m concerned about my wife pulling out, my two boys that drive pulling out, my neighbors children who drive, that traffic in the morning is unbelievable, with a little bit of rain it’s ridiculous.”
In a phone interview, Director of Community and Resident Relations at Amber Court Assisted Living Communities Robin Marks said the facility would have minimal traffic.
“We’re not expecting traffic to have that much of an impact – our residents do not drive, we are geared for a frail, elderly population and our resident is one that needs the world brought to them because they are not connected with the outside world,” she said. “It’s a residential lifestyle, it’s not a nursing home, it’s not a hotel and it’s a very, very quiet lifestyle.”
After the meeting, Nesconset resident Erik Russell said the facility would not fit in with the look of the community.
“There is no other three-story structures in the town of Nesconset … I grew up in this town and my wife grew up in this town and we stayed in this town because of what it’s about, now they’re going to put a three-story structure, 90,000 square feet, 137 feet from my property line. I have three children and their back windows look directly into that. You cannot buffer a 90,000 square feet building,” he said.
Malack-Ragonna said in a phone interview that the effects of this disease are widespread and need to be addressed by the community.
“We have a looming population in front of us where we can’t care for them if we don’t put these kinds of facilities up … we’ve got people on waiting lists and families that can’t handle this any longer,” she said.
During Thursday nights meeting, Smithtown resident Louis Alba spoke of his personal experience with the disease, and said the assisted living facility is a necessity.
“My wife is in her mid-50s and she has a form of Alzheimer’s disease that is terminal,” Alba said. “I work here locally at a hospital and I need a place that I can have my wife be at, she’s deteriorating … These are people from our families, normal people that have problems, that have needs as they deteriorate … Just think about everybody personally in your family, your spouse, your siblings, somebody is going to need care and to me this is an ideal place because it’s local, that we could go and visit these people and get them taken care of.”
Marks said the Amber Court Assisted Living Community would be an asset to Nesconset.
“I think that in the big picture when people need answers for their own parent and their own grandparent for quality care that’s affordable and wanting to keep their loved ones in the area so they can still participate in family functions and their children can grow up knowing their grandparents, I think they are going to be glad that we’re there offering that first class, first rate option,” she said.