NEW CASTLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — In an unusual objection to the proposed expansion of a northern Westchester nursing home for children, opponents say it will threaten endangered populations of bats.
On the 33 bucolic acres in New Castle, a facility for children who need full-time nursing care wants to expand from 19,000 feet to more than 140,000.
Critics say it’s wrong for an environmentally sensitive site, and bad for northern long-eared bats.
“What we’re asking New Castle is to hire someone, hire a bat expert,” project opponent Karen Wells said.
Wells is with the Greater Teatown Defense Alliance, which claims testing with a special device has detected populations of protected bats now threatened by plans to chop down hundreds of trees.
A February letter from the state says there are no occurrences of bats on or near the site. Wells isn’t sold.
“That means no one has actually looked for them,” she tells CBS2’s Tony Aiello. “The state actually, we would love to engage them, bring them down here to do a proper study of our area.”
Mark Weingarten, lawyer for Sunshine Home, says the issue has been “substantially studied,” and says critics are reaching for an excuse to stop the expansion, which would accommodate 60 children currently on a waiting list.
“We have unfortunately encountered a very wealthy and well-heeled opposition that has taken on this facility for more than two years,” Weingarten said.
The objection never even got to bat with the New Castle planning board, which said it was raised too late.
Opponents maintain they admire the work of the nursing home, but will fight the expansion in court.