By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.COM
COOPERSTOWN – Bassett hospitalized 4,324 patients in 2018, and many of them and most of their loved ones needed to park.
“We’re a victim of our own success,” said Johnathan Flyte, Bassett vice president, corporate services & facilities management. “People can’t get the basic need of parking their car. And that’s what we’re after. It’s part of our goal, to make us more accessible.”
The immediate plan to help alleviate the parking crunch is new surface parking lot on Riverside Drive, the cul de sac at Walnut and Susquehanna. (The plan replaced a parking garage to be built into the hillside, which proved too expensive.)
Flyte briefed the Village Board on plans at its December meeting on the 29th, but a final step before construction can begin is a public hearing. Community members will have a chance to comment at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, the trustees next meeting.
“They are doing everything by the book,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch.
“I think there is a level of support, in that Cooperstown generally needs a lot of parking,” Flyte said. The trustees “recognize we are a major contributor to the community, but it all comes down to their vote in the end.
“We have to convince not only them, but the community as well,” he said.
At Bassett, parking for patients is a daily struggle, Flyte said.
“We had a fellow who called. He was crying because he couldn’t find a place to park and his wife was dying. A staff member had to run out and park his car for him while he went inside. These types of situations happen daily, if not several times per day.”
The would-be Riverside Drive parking lot is close enough that it might just be the solution, adding 150 spaces.
“It’s close to the hospital and underutilized,” he said. “This being our property, it’s a natural place for something like this to exist.”
Lots One and Two, in front and behind the Clinic building at the end of River Street “routinely fill with outpatients.” Lot Three, down the hill by the Susquehanna “is used somewhat by patients now, and includes a shuttle. It’s been pretty successful and we want to expand that service,” said Flyte.
Additionally, as many of 41 percent of Bassett’s patients are over the age of 65.
“We have a lot of elderly people here,” said Flyte.
The plans for the new parking lot include a shuttle, which would help senior patients who might have trouble walking long distances.
“We’re a hospital. We want to make it easier for folks to seek medical services,” said Flyte. “People like the shuttle service, it brings them right to the front door.”
Flyte began working on the project over two years ago with Chazen Companies, an engineering consultant firm with offices in Glens Falls, Troy, and Poughkeepsie, “looking at options and refining this plan to make it useful, attractive, and serviceable,” he said.
As part of the planning process, Flyte invited neighbors of the hospital to provide input as well.
“We reached out to our neighbors and even had a meeting here at the hospital,” he said. “Homes are precious in this community. We value them.”
Located as it is near the Susquehanna River, the state Department of Environmental Conservation must also issues permits, and a DEC contractor was drilling test bores earlier this week. Flyte expresses confidence no issues will be found.
“The DEC may come back and say that we need to be further from the wetlands, in which case we may lose a few parking spaces, but they do not have any major concerns.”
If all goes well, the project will be approved early next year.
“We have been exhaustively looking for an answer and feel that this is best for the community and patients,” said Flyte.