New York health system faces lawsuit over $480M hospital project

Utica, N.Y.-based Mohawk Valley Health System could face a legal battle over its $480 million expansion project, according to nonprofit public radio network WRVO Public Media.

The expansion — which calls for the construction of a 672,000-square-foot hospital in downtown Utica — is expected to break ground late this year.  

However, a group opposed to the plans has filed a lawsuit regarding the state-mandated environmental review process that was completed earlier this year, according to WRVO.

Jim Brock, co-founder of No Hospital Downtown, argues that the process, referred to as SEQR, was "fatally flawed." 

He told the radio network the process did not properly factor in the historic nature of the neighborhood that is being torn down and did not thoroughly review an alternative location for the hospital — Mohawk Valley's St. Luke's campus. The new hospital is slated to replace that campus and the St. Elizabeth campus, both in Utica.

"With the SEQR process being so fatally flawed on so many different levels, we were forced at that point to bring litigation and to address those issues and more importantly to have the court address those issues," Mr. Brock said.

No Hospital Downtown is calling for a new agency to conduct a new environmental review process. The Planning Board of Utica, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, led the initial review.

Mohawk Valley COO Bob Scholefield told WRVO the expansion will move forward, with plans to continue closing on downtown businesses and taking steps toward building the new hospital amid the lawsuit.

"We have to continue to provide enough confidence to those who are concerned about these things to recognize that we are moving forward," he said. "Although there are a number of hurdles to get us there, the end result of a state-of-the-art medical center in downtown Utica that allows us to create jobs during the construction, create additional jobs after its open, recruiting of physicians and higher level of care,  those benefits will all be realized about four years from now. We just have to make sure we don't lose sight of that."


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