Guest Column: Many Unanswered Questions Surround the Sunshine Children’s Home

By Cynthia Manocherian

Thank you for shining some much-needed light on New Castle’s 143,000-square-foot Sunshine Home expansion project in your two-part story: “Sunshine Children’s Home Attorney Takes Off the Gloves to Defend Client,” and “Distrust Runs Deep Throughout Sunshine Children’s Home Review,” Mar. 20, 2019.

Distrust is how many in the Greater Teatown community feel about the Sunshine developers and the expansion. The healthcare facility for medically fragile children is rightfully called a “hospital” by Town Supervisor Greenstein, yet his Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) erroneously granted the developers the special permits and the negative declaration they needed in order to guarantee this project would be approved.

Many people, including residents, neighbors and New Castle’s and Ossining town officials, past and present, know what’s taking place at Sunshine. Mr. Weingarten, a politically connected lawyer AND lobbyist has managed to get approvals to override New Castle Town Code while disregarding possible impacts on Ossining.

Sunshine continues to put pediatric patients at risk. Those children will live onsite and within a dangerous construction project for two years. Why is the New York State Department of Health permitting this?

This expansion will destroy a rural part of the Greater Teatown Area, which ties into both the Croton to Highlands Bio-Diversity Corridor and the Hudson River estuary.

Why? That’s easy: money. Sunshine receives over $420,000 in New York State Medicare reimbursements per bed per year. Do the math: 122 beds at $420,000 each equals over $51 million per year in revenue. With net annual profits of more than $5 million in recent years, it is clear why the owners seek expansion.

In your article, Mr. Weingarten calls my neighbors and me specifically “shameful,” “reprehensible,” “hypocrites” and “bullies.” Really?

I ask Mr. Weingarten and the owners, Mr. Ari Friedman and MSAFF Group LLC, to post and explain the following:

Their emergency evacuation plans, and their shelter-in-place plans (both current and future).

  • The July 15, 2013, Ryan Scott Karben letter on behalf of Sunshine, to both the Town and Village of Ossining. In it there were many surprises including demanding municipal water. He wrote: “It is unacceptable to run a skilled nursing facility’s sprinkler system with reliance on wells at capacity…Two of the three wells on the property are nearly dry.” Yet the developer turned around a year later and submitted to the New Castle ZBA the facility has more than enough well water to expand to a foot print larger than the Empire State Building?
  • The status of Sunshine’s radium filtration system installation. For over 10 years the patients and staff have been drinking water contaminated with radium. Even after a notice of violation from the County Health Department in 2016, Sunshine never installed a much-needed filtration system. The Town Board supports that need. In the article, Mr. Weingarten states that Sunshine “is required to build a filtration plant to ensure that the water is clean should they have to deepen their wells.” Which is it? Does Sunshine need more water or radium filtering or both?
  • Why, during the monitoring of neighbors’ wells and collecting area water draw-down data, was the Sunshine Home receiving large tankers of off-site water multiple times per week during the dry months?
  • Weingarten states in the article that “Sunshine will install a system that would use rainwater rather than well water for irrigation.” How is this possible when Sunshine has promised the ZBA that this water storage will be dedicated to fire suppression needs, a request also made by the Millwood Fire Department?

The two articles correctly stated the Sunshine Home attorney has always taken off the gloves defending his clients’ goal to make $50 million dollars a year and the Greater Teatown community continue to have many reasons to distrust the project. With no chance for reimbursement, our community is spending hard-earned money and time to fight this project because we see the developers playing a dangerous game with their patients’ safety and natural resources and doing so in the name of greed. We ask Mr. Weingarten, Supervisor Greenstein and Ari Friedman to stop casting aspersions on our community. Their behavior and actions are duplicitous and unprofessional.

Cynthia Manocherian is a New Castle resident and a neighbor of Sunshine Children’s Home & Rebab Center.

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