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Closing the Door on an Opportunity

"The mission of Open Door is not to create problems, but to solve them."

Editor's Note: Jeffrey Guzman works for , and writes of the struggle the organization has had to move into the building they bought at the intersection of North and New Broadway. Leading up to tonight's continued Planning Board public hearing, here's their take.

. It’s currently a vacant building. It’s currently a building known for a controversial history. It’s currently an opportunity for improvement and expansion. It’s currently the place Open Door Family Medical Center, its patients, and six new resident physicians are hoping to call home.

of the town have shown concerns about their safety and the efficiency of Open Door’s plan, creating a bit of a hurdle in the path of a plan that could benefit both ends of the argument. Open Door has been working endlessly to get its proposal passed, collecting petition signatures of over 500 cheering patients and residents, and getting residents aware of the upcoming board hearings, the last one having taken place on June 28th. At that hearing there were signs that miscommunication and false information may be taking a part in the decision making of residents, especially those living in Webber Park, where the new facility would be standing.

This article hopes to clear up some of the confusion. The question is, will you be one of those cheering, supporting fans or will you still maintain your stand, and close the door on the community’s opportunity to expand?

On the parking issue, which is what has mainly preoccupied Webber Park residents who have had a history of vandalism and accidents, this is what Open Door and the statistics say:

First of all, the big picture which Open Door has been trying to get across from the start is that an average of 70% of patients walk to appointments. This makes the need for parking so minimal, that the 10 spaces Open Door is providing (plus one handicap space) are sufficient enough to keep the 27% of patients who drive, from parking on the street.

The Adler Study, done by Bernard Adler, President of Adler Consulting, Transportation Planning & Traffic Engineering, says that on the busiest day of the week, Monday, there may be a need for just 1 or 2 more spaces, between noon and 4 p.m. These additional 2 cars can easily be accommodated within a .25 mile radius, where according to the same study: 220 spaces are available from 8-4 and 242 from 4-7. Daily averages show that:

  • Between 8 and 12, there will be an average of 103 unoccupied spaces.
  • Between 12 and 4, there will be an average of 98 unoccupied spaces.
  • Between 4 and 7, there will be an average of 70 unoccupied spaces.

In respect of Webber Park’s wishes, Open Door will control vehicular traffic on New Broadway, by making the main entrance North Broadway. All entrances along New Broadway will be removed, leaving a handicapped entrance and an emergency exit. Open Door will try to accommodate those additional cars, on Pocantico St or Beekman Ave where free parking will be offered. A handicapped elevator will be located at the main entrance.

As for staff members, Open Door in partnership with Phelps Memorial Hospital plans a shuttle service. Staff would park at Phelps and be shuttled to the new facility. This is something that has been done by the Northern Westchester Hospital Center in Mt. Kisco, and which has shown positive results, even with the distance between the lot and the hospital being greater than that between Phelps and Open Door. In the case that a staff member does not use the shuttle service, Open Door’s Policy and Procedure for Employee Parking, has forbidden employee parking on New Broadway. Breaking this policy on numerous occasions can lead to serious consequences. Like patients, staff members would be advised to park on Beekman or Pocantico.

Lastly, Open Door has taken the liberty to contact local taxi companies advising them to stay off New Broadway and do drop offs in the parking lot.

Even with these statistics and solutions some residents of Webber Park still are stuck on keeping Open Door far away, believing Open Door won’t be successful in enforcing and going through with its plan. At the last board hearing one man stated, “In reality, what doctor is going to take a bus?” in regards to the shuttle. To which new medical director, Rebecca Collins responded, “I’m a doctor at Open Door, so I guess I’m going to be one of the doctors taking that bus.”

Open Door has stepped out of its comfort zone (collecting over 500 petition signatures, attending meetings, and educating patients and residents of the village) in order to give its patients better service, and it has and will step out of its comfort zone to find a way to appeal to all Sleepy Hollow residents.

It’s like Webber Park resident, Margaret Rubick has stated, “Open Door is not a drug clinic, it is a health clinic.”

Open Door isn’t coming into your neighborhood to do damage or cause trouble; Open Door is doing it to better treat patients while still respecting those around the facility. Open Door just asks residents of Webber Park to step out of their comfort zone and support their neighbors.

One resident said, “It won’t be fair to us.” What wouldn’t be fair is to have patients remain in this building, which the landlord has refused to renovate. So if one day a taxi meant to stop at Open Door goes on New Broadway or a patient park there once in a blue moon, don’t feel your safety is in danger and that Open Door has lied. Know these things will happen once in a while, but that Open Door will be monitoring them.

Plus Open Door’s addition to the neighborhood would actually be beneficial, in terms of home values. Although Open Door serves low-income patients, having a medical clinic, be it for all classes or just the lower class shows a healthy, caring, united town.

Plus as Margaret Rubick had also stated when speaking of 1 New Broadway, as the building is also called, “if it is not occupied, it will deteriorate to another eyesore.” The eyesore she’s speaking of: a previous gym, car dealership, and plumbing supply. It would be these types of businesses which may affect your house value or create traffic and parking issues, but not Open Door.

Open Door, is definitely a step or two up from these. Plus the building has been renovated and even looks like a home, which is what Open Door wants. For patients to feel at home and like they have a second family, and that’s how I’ve felt.

Open Door really is an essential part in the lives of these people. It offers health care to the needy residents who don’t make enough money to pay for their health care, or who don’t have any health insurance. Here are just a few statistics to show Open Door’s impact on the community over the past 40 years, and on Sleepy Hollow specifically for over 20 years:

  • More than 40,000 patients are treated yearly in 4 locations.
  • 8.7% of Westchester residents live under the poverty line (make less than $44,000 for a family of four). Open Door attends 5% of Westchester residents
  • In Sleepy Hollow, 3,500 patients are annually treated. That is 15% of the Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow population. More than 12% of the population lives under the poverty line in this area.
  • Patient size has increased by 23% over the past 5 years. 40 years ago Open Door was just a small, free clinic in a church basement.

Although these numbers show Open Door has treated a majority of the “less fortunate” in Westchester, that just it. It’s served the majority, no most or close to all. Plus these numbers were calculated two years ago. The number of people in need has grown since then.

Children have been born into low-income families and may not be receiving adequate health care. Open Door would love to treat every single person in need and have their number of patients and services grow. The potential is there, as according to CEO Lindsay Farrell, the facility was named “a Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home, the highest distinction from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.” Yet it's obvious that at 80 Beekman, the potential can’t be used to its fullest; and if there’s a place where Open Door can grow, and treat the other 3% without adequate care, allowing it to move would make the difference.

The intersection which has been deemed “dangerous” does not worry Open Door’s loyal patients, 70% of whom walk or take public transportation everywhere. Crossing the street is not an impediment for quality health care to them. Nor is it an impediment to go shopping at C-Town, from which they have to return with heavy bags. Nor an impediment for the children to go to school, all of which are located along Rt. 9.

In her letter, Vivian Sebastian said, “the families are walkers; they are extremely aware of the dangers of crossing at intersections with their children and are extremely cautious.”

This cautiousness is what has prevented pedestrian accidents from ever happening, even when more than 600 people cross the intersection daily. To add to this cautiousness Open Door is also:

  • Hiring a crossing guard, which it is also reimbursing the village for. A similar approach was taken at the Ossining location, where a “STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS” sign was erected and has always been respected by drivers.
  • Educating patients with a flyer, giving them the safest route.
  • Previously damaged sidewalks and crossing lights were also fixed 2 years ago.

Statistics show Open Door will generate an average of no more than 20 patients per hour.

An issue Open Door has chosen to tackle which would not only benefit patients, but all Sleepy Hollow residents, is to make the village aware of how a lack of signs and arrows showing two lane mergers along North Broadway is what causes most accidents. Open Door is hoping NYS DOT will be contacted to get two signs up, as well as arrows, to prevent further accidents and backups. Speaking of backups, one vehicular movement from Open Door would only delay traffic 8 seconds; compare that to a limo exiting the building next to Open Door, and taking up both sides of the street.

Lastly, the Zoning Board never stated 300 N. Broadway could not be used as a medical office. Had that been true, there wouldn’t even have been consideration.

So as you may hopefully see, in an attempt to continue serving the community Open Door is addressing every issue. Open Door is in no way going to interfere with Webber Park. It simply wants to serve the community and I hope Webber Park and Open Door can come together to serve the underserved portion of our community. Open Door had the same problem at its Mount Kisco location which is around a residential neighborhood and after years of being there it has shown that neighborhood that they will be loyal to their promise of no interference, because the mission of Open Door is not to create problems, but to solve them.

So please everyone join this community effort and open your door.

All statistics and information were taken from the Census Bureau and the studies done by Adler Consulting. The reports and other resident letters can be found at: http://www.sleepyhollowny.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=51&Itemid=77

For more information please feel free to e-mail me at jeff-guzman@hotmail.com or jeff.guzman97@gmail.com or call 914-502-1437. We’ll be happy to hear your opinion. Remember the hearing tonight, July 19, 8 p.m. Sleepy Hollow Village Hall, 28 Beekman.

John Bell January 16, 2013 at 01:35 PM
I was just reading these comments and was not going to respond, but you caught my attention with the statement "Slaves gained freedom and in the 60's persecution ended." "Yet now Hispanics are being persecuted'. How dare you compare what you call Hispanic persecution to slave persecution. I am a product of slaves and in no way are Hispanics being persecuted like slaves were. I was here in the 60's and you don't know what persecution is, and it has not totally ended. I get really annoyed when Hispanics compare themselves to African Americans as to the way they are treated. No Comparison.
'nough said January 18, 2013 at 03:46 AM
i have to say that i have been down in webber park during the day and the streets there are empty. No cars parked on either side of the road, no traffic except for local municipalities doing their job. I did not see anywhere that Open Door would be open 24-7 so I am missing something here...
Rose Sawyer January 18, 2013 at 04:05 AM
Inaccurate - That is simply not the case.
CAROL January 20, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Where is the free parking being provided by OD? Is it infront of taxpayer houses?
CAROL January 20, 2013 at 03:54 PM
OD is open until 7pm...... What time do people return home after a days work? Will the residents have to circle the block to find parking? It seems like the cost to the residents of Webber Park out weigh the benefits. The middle class always get the short end.

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