NEW CASTLE, N.Y. -- A center that helps disabled children with long-term care needs is proposing a major expansion of its existing facility in western New Castle in an effort to meet existing demand and consolidate space.
The Sunshine Children's Home & Rehab Center is seeking to expand its main building from approximately 19,000 square feet to roughly 146,000. It is also proposing to raise the number of beds for children from 54 to 122.
The property, which documents show is located at 15 Spring Valley Road and sits on roughly 33 acres, is perched in a wooded area near the top of a hill off.
The site is near the Ossining border.
The site has been home to several centers that treated children with physical disabilities since the 1950s, according to Linda Mosiello, who is Sunshine's director. Sunshine acquired the property in 2009 from St. Mary's Healthcare System for Children, said Mosiello, who worked for the previous operator. The center was close to shutting down until Sunshine came in at the 11th hour, Mosiello recalled.
Mosiello argues the expansion is needed because there is a group of children who are surviving severe illness and injury that did not as recently as a decade ago.
“Kids are surviving what they did not survive prior."
The director said a lot of children who need the service are living in other states due to a shortage in New York of pediatric beds, particular ventilator beds.
Sunshine notes that it has a waiting list of roughly 70 children.
During a recent tour of the campus, Mosiello pointed out constraints with the existing space. Examples include having to store large amounts of equipment in various buildings across the property, use of a modular building for three classrooms that is accessible for students by a sloped ramp outside and bedrooms that are not deemed to be sufficient for handling both beds and medical gear.
“It’s beyond cramped right now,” Moseillo said about the rooms.
The addition would be two stories. Moseillo explained that patients would sleep on the first floor while the second would be used for storage, office space and room for families to stay when visiting.
The project requires a variance from the New Castle Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) because the town code only allows for up to 83 beds, an attorney for Sunshine told the board.
The project concerns residents living on both sides of the town line. At a ZBA public hearing held earlier this summer, the most commonly voiced concern was about traffic impact, with the argument that the proposal will exacerbate existing problems. Other concerns pertain to tree clearance and impact on water supply.
Sunshine produced a study showing there would be no significant traffic impact. It also announced that it will have more than enough capacity for its water demand.
Hala Makowska, who lives near the site, spoke about the environmental review. Makowska, who is also running for a New Castle Town Board seat, argued that the project should undergo an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), citing projects such as the new firehouse and the Upper Westchester Muslim Society's nearby proposed mosques - both projects were smaller in square footage - as examples.
Sabrina Charney Hull, the town's director of planning, recommended in a May memo that the ZBA should issue a "negative declaration," which means that an EIS would not be required.
The ZBA could revisit the project at its September meeting, although no agenda for it has been published.