BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA
The monthly luncheon for the Rockland Business Association was held last Thursday, July 19 at the Rockland Country Club in Sparkill, N.Y. Guest speaker Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef touched upon areas of concern, such as the possible closing of the Summit Park nursing home, and the constructions of the new Tappan Zee Bridge and Nanuet Mall.
A report from Toski and Co. has stated that, outside of the financial situations, there are several concerns that come with the possibility of closing Summit Park, and Vanderhoef agreed on that point during an interview.
“They’re not so much ethical. They are social issues relating to the mission of the hospital, which is to treat all newcomers regardless of their ability to pay,” said Vanderhoef. “And there are people in Rockland County who don’t have Medicaid…who needed that long-term care. So, we are one of the last resorts. From a social point-of-view, it’s a mission that is important…and if you couldn’t pay to get in, that would a very difficult thing for society. So that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to focus on the mission, not just on the issue of finance… It’s much broader.”
United Hospice Executive Director Amy Stern also voiced her comments on the matter of Summit Park. “The problem is larger than just one entity,” said Stern. “The nursing home met a need in this community when other nursing homes did not accept Medicaid patients. This has not been the case for many years. Other area nursing homes have been operating at less than full capacity and can certainly absorb some of the patient census. I am not convinced that there is a compelling reason for county government to be a provider of healthcare. We certainly can’t afford to do it the way we have been doing it.”
The next area of discussion was the Tappan Zee Bridge. With all of the recent developments related to the bridge, there is the question of how local homes and businesses will be affected by the construction.
“It will have a major impact no matter where you are in Rockland,” said Vanderhoef. “Homes near the bridge will be impacted immediately with the construction and will be impacted by the traffic. But long term, homes along all the major corridors will be impacted by any addition flow of traffic or addition development of mass transportation. To develop mass transportation…you’ll have to change some of the geography.”
Although there will be many changes, Vanderhoef says that it won’t be as dramatic as in 1955 when the NYS Thruway was constructed. It will change for the better if it’s done right, he said.
When the subject of the new Nanuet Mall was brought up at the luncheon, Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack commented that in addition to construction jobs, over 1,500 jobs can be expected in the establishment once the building is complete.
“The benefits are that you provide shoppers with a better place to shop,” said Mr. Vanderhoef. “But, most importantly to the county is that you increase your sales tax. More people will buy items with a sales tax on them. Theoretically, it should give at least a small boost to our sales tax revenue once it’s completed. The mall has been a ghost town for so long…it’s a big, gaping hole in the middle of a very nice community. So, by putting in brand new retail stores, a movie theater and restaurants, you’re adding to the overall quality of life not just to Nanuet, but to the whole county.”
Vanderhoef’s is a past chairman of the RBA and noted that he’s seen changes in the organization, as well as the county. “It has changed tremendously,” said Mr. Vanderhoef. “When I was chairman, it was a much was smaller organization [but] it had a lot of clout. It helped to create the executive charter form of government. Today, it’s a much larger organization and has a lot more programs. It’s a very good place to connect with leaders. The county has changed significantly. The county has become much stronger financially and economically. It’s a much more coordinated county than it was. Organizations are working with each other. The county has become much more coherent. It has become one of the wealthiest and strongest counties in New York State. When I say ‘wealthiest,’ I mean the wealth of the individuals.”