Ellis Hospital does not need five stories of parking to serve its expanded Emergency Department, according to the hospital’s own calculations.
Hospital officials told the Schenectady Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday they need four to six parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of the Emergency Department. The expansion is 28,000 square feet, which would mean 112 to 168 new spaces under that formula. But hospital officials have said they need about 400 spaces.
The hospital already has approval to build a three-story garage with 212 spaces on the site of what is now a parking lot. Hospital officials are seeking permission to modify those plans, and build a five-story garage with 390 spaces.
Despite the clarified figures, Ellis President and CEO James Connolly said the additional parking will be needed someday, and the five-story garage must be constructed now.
“To not build the entire garage now would put the entire community in a precarious situation for the future,” he said.
On Wednesday, zoning board members questioned the need for such a large parking garage at the very edge of the Ellis property, in a residential neighborhood. But Ellis officials said they had no choice: Emergency Department patients would not be able to walk any significant distance from a parking lot because they need immediate medical assistance.
Residents and members of the zoning board were left with some confusion regarding the hospital’s proposal. The board tabled the matter until they could get more information regarding lighting and noise and look more closely at the hospital’s environmental impact statement.
On Thursday, hospital officials clarified their proposal. They explained that only about half of their new building would be used as an Emergency Department. The second floor, which they had described at the board meeting as a “shell,” might be used as physicians’ offices.
Ellis has not yet contracted with additional physicians, and hospital officials said they might use the space in other ways if there isn’t much call for doctors’ offices. It could also be used to expand the Emergency Department, if needed, in the future, they said.
The proposed five-story garage would provide parking for future clients of those physicians, as well as handling any increase in Emergency Department visits.
“We’re planning for the future,” said Ellis spokesman Matt Van Pelt. “We’re going to get more patients.”
Neighbors who attended Wednesday’s contentious zoning board meeting said they were stunned to learn the entire garage wasn’t needed for emergency patients.
“If they want physicians’ [offices], that’s a different story,” said resident Paul Casillo, a former city engineer. “They don’t need the additional parking.”
Clients for those offices could easily walk from another parking lot on the hospital campus, he said.
Other residents also expressed surprise that the garage would not be needed entirely for emergency patients. They said that strengthened their argument against the taller garage.
But resident Louis DiCerbo said it wouldn’t matter. He said the hospital put on a “dog and pony show” at the board meeting to persuade city officials the garage was desperately needed.
“I think they’ve won,” he said.