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Helipad Opponents 'Reignited' by Overlook's DOT Filing

Overlook Medical Center filed an application last week with the state Department of Transportation to build a helipad.

Overlook Medical Center is seeking approval for a helipad. Credit: Patch
Overlook Medical Center is seeking approval for a helipad. Credit: Patch
Donna Miller, of Citizens Against the Helipad, said the grassroots group has been galvanized by the recent action taken by Overlook Medical Center to pursue plans to build a helipad.

On Wednesday, Nov. 27, the hospital filed an application with the New Jersey Department of Transportation to move ahead with the project, which hospital officials said is necessary in order to advance the hospital's stroke center. 

The move comes after the City's Zoning Board of Adjustment previously denied the hospital an operating permit in 2010. Earlier this year, Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy affirmed the Summit Zoning Board's rejection of the project. 

Miller, who is not surprised by the filing, said, "Overlook's latest tactic circumvents the legal process." What concerns the Oak Ridge Avenue resident and her neighbors, she said, is the idea that a state department can come in and override what a municipality has already ruled on. 

"We're saddened by the DOT filing but they've done us a great favor," she said. "We're reignited. Even those who were previously ambivalent about the helipad are now troubled by what the hospital is trying to do. Many in town never imagined this would happen. Citizens Against the Helipad has always had its eye on the ball but we're gratified to see people come out of the woodwork and ask what they can do to help and support us."

Miller added that she doubts the DOT intended to set a precedent when it allowed Donald Trump to go ahead with plans to build a helipad at his golf course despite the objection of Colts Neck Township's Zoning Board. 

"Trump's helipad did not require building a new structure. He was landing on a golf course. Overlook needs to build a substantial structure in a densely-populated area. These are two completely different animals," Miller said. 

Michael Regier, chief legal officer for Atlantic Health Systems, said while some may believe that the Zoning Board has the final word, it is really the "DOT that is the decider, if you will," when it comes to the element of licensing. Regier added that the hospital has gone to tremendous effort to be mindful of the concerns of Summit residents, but said, ultimately, it isn't a Summit issue but rather a regional transportation and medical care issue.

Overlook received word Wednesday evening that the DOT has deemed its application complete, Regier said. The next step in the process is to allow 30 days for public comment after public notice is given. In this case, notices will appear in Union County Local Source and The Star Ledger, Regier said. During that 30-day period, anyone with an opinion on the helipad can write to Commissioner James S. Simpson. 

Stephen Schapiro, public information officer at NJDOT, said the application and review process can be a lengthy one, traditionally taking several months, in which the applicant must meet certain criteria outlined by state law.

"Among the criteria for application are notification of the municipality and county, FAA airspace approval, and location details including dimensions of the landing area and approach path," Schapiro explained. "NJDOT evaluates the application taking into consideration safety, proposed use of the facility, surrounding land use and economic factors before making a decision on whether to authorize and license a helistop."

While he said he has "no feel" for how long it may take for the commissioner to arrive at a final decision, Regier said "the state is in a better position to access (the situation) given the lives at stake."

Summit Mayor Ellen Dickson weighed in, stating, "As a City, we are respectful of this process and hope the needs of the community and Overlook Hospital will be reasonably met.” 
Les B Real December 05, 2013 at 07:12 PM
The Mayor sure sounds like a fighter for the people. What's going on in my democracy? Lately it seems, the more people want something (ie.: gun control or no helipad or employment), the quicker those in charge do just the opposite. I thought it was supposed to be ... by the people for the people ... which at this point leads to which people?
Cathy December 06, 2013 at 08:04 AM
Follow the money.
Adam White December 06, 2013 at 12:03 PM
This is a crying shame that the residents don't really understand what the proposed helipad is really about. They are led by a few who employ scare tactics, if for no other reason but to "ignite fear" and spread information that just ain't so. In the end, the hospital will get the helipad and they'll probably get 1 flight a week. You have more lawnmowers, sirens, and dogs barking than the noise of one helicopter a week. You need to wake up and realize that this is going to save people's lives.
MadNJ December 06, 2013 at 03:03 PM
Overlook is lying! Why would they spend so much in legal (I assume millions) and then perhaps $5MM for 1 flight a week? It would be ridiculous. Why alienate everyone in town for one flight a week? The real issue is once it is built there is no control and the answers the hospital gives of doesnt give are telling. Adam what do you do at the Atlantic Hospital Group? Or are you a paid consultant?
Kari December 07, 2013 at 10:15 PM
People are opposed to it until someone they love has a stroke. Maybe we need to stop thinking about what is best for ourselves and start thinking about those who might need fast, life-saving means.
MadNJ December 08, 2013 at 09:25 AM
Kari this is nice but too simplistic. Overlook claims the issues are recognition of a stroke then giving a specific drug within an hour or two. Wouldn't the helicopter only be called if they identified the patient as a stroke victim? Don't all hospitals have these drugs. Yes and Yes. So explain why there needs to be a helicopter again. Oh the helicopter is owned by the Overlook parent Corporation. Coincidence. Why are they so eager to spend so much money for one flight a week? What is really their agenda?
Cathy December 08, 2013 at 03:26 PM
I appreciate what people THINK this is about. However, many people do not understand this issue and most likely have NOT been to the zoning meetings. I was there and it was a travesty on Overlook's part. For ex, their attorney compared the noise of a helicopter to "your neighbor's electric toothbrush." Talk about condescending. IF you read the transcript from the zoning board, only THEN will you realize the lies and fabrication. Overlook was hoping that people's sense of compassion would give the hospital (oh--I mean MEDICAL CENTER ahem) what they wanted. Read what the president of the zoning board said in his final statement if you want the truth. Let me give it to you straight: THIS IS NOT ABOUT STROKES. Okay? Atlantic Health wants Overlook to be a transplant center and this can only be done if they have a helipad. Follow the $, follow the $, follow the $. FACT: Once Overlook is opened up for helicopters, they can run any time, any day and as much as needed. Morristown residents who live near Memorial hospital (and not so near as a matter of fact) testified that this has happened to them and they would never have agreed to the helipad if they had known. FACT: During the day, patients who are on route 22 for ex, can get the ambulance at the Connell Building in Berkeley Heights. In the evening, they can take the ambulance from the Morristown airport (after taken by helicopter there). FACT: Of course anti-helipad people are sympathetic to those who have strokes or anything else for that matter. But the window of time is actually longer than you think. It's not one minute. When do we allow pure emotion to make social decisions? EVERYTHING has to be analyzed and evaluated.That is fair and reaasonable for the ENTIRE community.Why do you think they renamed the hospital as a "Medical Center?" FACT: Are there that many stroke victims in the vicinity of Summit who need a helicopter? Would a helicopter land on the lawn of someone who lives in Summit who has had a stroke? Do people on route 22 suddenly have strokes? If this is about strokes, let's get honest. FACT: Helicopters are dangerous, particularly 500 feet above Overlook and in that particular airspace. Look at statistics. It is an incredibly difficult landing even for experienced pilots. FACT: A huge portion of Summit residents will be affected by the noise and pollution. This will not be 1/month or even 1/week my friends. You can make the assumption that Overlook originally made: people who live near the hospital already have sirens and lights and traffic and a lot of them have little money so we can easily persuade these chumps. In their minds, this was a David and Goliath issue--they believed they would easily win (being Goliath that is). I am extremely THANKFUL for people with means who have stood up to the Atlantic Health machine. And you should be too!
Cathy December 08, 2013 at 03:31 PM
It's interesting to me that people are giving the thumbs up to those who know the least. Adam, if you read this again, please get your facts together. And provide proof about "scare tactics."
MadNJ December 18, 2013 at 08:57 AM
I believe Adam is a shill for Overlook foundation. This is an organization I really don't understand as they seem to be raising money for individual doctors groups which happen to be housed in a local building. Why not Summit Medical. Group foundation?
Michael S. Dzikowski January 13, 2014 at 03:13 PM
Cathy, You are right on! Unfortunately Adam doesn't understand big business' needs for revenue growth and less concerning the operation of a helicopter fleet. This is a business expansion issue for the Atlantic Health. I have requested a breakdown of the inaccurate statistics submitted to the Patch by Chairman Robert E. Mulcahy,III. Let's see if he responds so that we may properly evaluate their patient transfer claims..... Mike Dzikowski
Les B Real January 13, 2014 at 08:24 PM
Thoughts and opinions A few years ago my mother was in the hospital in Morristown for heart problems. We were sitting in her room one night when one of those noises began when you start to think, is this the end? It was unbelievably loud and annoying, not to mention scary! I thought I was going to have a heart attack - it was a helicopter landing on the roof a few stories above her room. News: it was at least a thousand times louder than a toothbrush. Much louder than a lawnmower or a motorcycle without a muffler. It seemed like it took more than a few minutes for it to maneuver to land. Overlook, by it's name is on top of the mountain where winds and fog could be a maneuvering problem. Didn't they want a helipad at the Connell site in Berkeley Heights. They are at least a bit isolated. Whatever happened there? I live near Route 78 - does anyone remember a bad accident there late at night a couple of years back. The news helicopters were hovering around 4 am for a good half hour to hour (there MAY have been a rescue helicopter also) - they were overhead at a decent altitude. The house shook here and there, not real conducive for sleep. My toothbrush or lawnmower has never shaken the house. I agree, a business as savvy as Atlantic Health isn't going to put all that money into something for one landing per week. The non-profit Hospital has always been a bottom line run business. Besides, when I told my doctor and his staff I preferred Morristown Memorial for having an angiogram, I was told if anything went wrong, they could have me transferred from Overlook to Morristown in 15 minutes or less by ambulance. Now, my doctor and staff wouldn't lie to me, would they?
MadNJ January 13, 2014 at 10:52 PM
Les- I was in the overlook emergency room with my elderly father. He put in a room and no one ever came in, hours past... In the end none of the doctors knew he was their patient. The ER is bedlam (literally). Maybe improving the ER should be priority one. I would go to Barnabas. Too many stories of post-secondary infection and low quality of service.
Deantown January 14, 2014 at 07:15 AM
Follow the money? But wouldn't that lead to an Oak Ridge Avenue family's parking garage fortune funding the fight against the helipad? Hmmm...
Michael S. Dzikowski January 16, 2014 at 11:36 AM
I believe Dr.John Vigorita to be a good man and excellent pediatrician. He has graciously helped me understand health issues with my grandchildren over the years. I believe Dr. James Gardner to be an expert plastic surgeon. I also believe Dr. John Halperin to be an expert neurosurgeon in his Overlook, Morristown and Mt. Sinai (New York) practices. But, while reading these doctors' letters of support for the Overlook Rooftop Helipad, I realized that these three men of science have two very important things in common: 1) They have an understandably biased allegiance to their boss, Alan Lieber (President of Overlook) who is a businessman, not a man of science or helicopter pilot, and, 2) They have absolutely no understanding nor any interest in learning the dangers of running a helicopter operation on the roof of a hospital with insufficient emergency landing space!... The solution to this debate is to simply upgrade Morristown's CT Scan equipment (to a 320 Slice Scan like Overlook's from the current 64 Slice Scan). The Atlantic Health neurologist team is already there! The helipad is already there - problem solved! We have read Summit Councilman, Pat Hurley's (a former combat Navy Helicopter Pilot) professional objections to this helipad. As a veteran U.S. Army & Marine Corps Helicopter Instructor Pilot, I too strongly object to this rooftop helipad. I have accomplished many medevac missions flying in and out of dangerous landing zones to save lives. Sadly, I have also evacuated crew members and passengers who were badly burned or did not survive helicopter crashes. This is something you doctors totally disregard - the flight crews, patients and residents surrounding the densely populated Overlook rooftop! I find this shameful. Dr. Gardner, how dare you call us "selfish, and irresponsible". Trust me. We know about helicopters, helipads and saving lives. We'll come to you for your input if we need to learn more on liposuction and breast augmentation.... Here's some links to educate yourselves on our safety concerns. There is a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Database site: http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/index.aspx This site will show you with various screens, how many helicopter accidents occur in whatever timeframe you select. e.g., For the ten year period 1/1/2004 through 12/31/2013 there were 136 accidents (non-scheduled helicopter flights; Part 135 for Air Taxi, Charter, Medical Service). 40 accidents (29%) resulted in fatalities ranging from 1 to 10, totaling 141 dead. PHI, Inc., the operator of Atlantic Health's three (3) helicopters, had 3 accidents (one with 8 fatalities from a bird strike!). That's 1.18 fatalities per month; 104 fatalities per 100 accidents. 23% of the accidents were in Eurocopters, the manufacturer of Atlantic Health's fleet. Please get the CT Scan upgrade for Morristown and stop all this foolishness! Please.... Sincerely, Mike Dzikowski http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwddjutGEKY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1RmVqS1lu0
Michael S. Dzikowski January 16, 2014 at 11:37 AM
Another 9 dead as an experienced EC-135 Eurocopter pilot attempts an emergency forced landing and crashes THROUGH THE ROOF of a Glasgow, Scotland Pub in a densely populated area on 12/03/2013. We need to stop this Overlook Helipad! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-25181604
Michael S. Dzikowski February 18, 2014 at 11:12 AM
Please review Dr. Halperin's 1/1/14 Letter to Editor "Helistop Will Allow Larger Community Benefit....". Before attempting to minimize the other fine NJ stroke centers he should have more accurately disclosed “Castle Connoly’s” hospital report available on his Atlantic Health site. “Inside Jersey’s 2013 Top Hospitals”, ranked MORRISTOWN #1, not Overlook! St. Barnabas was ranked #2, Overlook #3, Hackensack #4 and Valley Hospital #5 for “Treatment of STROKES”..... In another category, “Treatment of NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS”, Castle Connoly ranked ST. BARNABAS #1, MORRISTOWN #2, Overlook #3, Hackensack #4, and Valley Hospital #5. It should be mentioned that Morristown was also ranked #2 in "Patients Highly Satisfied". Overlook tied for #8 in patient satisfaction. In the "Patients' Room & Bathroom Kept Clean" category, Morristown ranked #5. Overlook was not ranked in the Top 10 (nor Top 20 including ties)! Maybe, Overlook’s management should re-focus on more fundamental, core services before beating its chest at the expense of other stroke care medical centers? Facts matter.... http://www.castleconnolly.com/insidehospitals/results2013/
Michael S. Dzikowski March 20, 2014 at 03:27 PM
3/18/2014 The NY Daily News and, ABC News report that two people died (pilot & photographer) and another person was seriously injured on the ground after a Seattle news Eurocopter attempted a ROOFTOP take-off. The helicopter plummeted from the rooftop Tuesday morning, crashing into two cars on Seattle’s Broad Street, exploding in a massive fireball just fifty feet from the city’s distinctive “Space Needle”... Seattle resident, Richard Newman, 38, pulled himself from his car after suffering burns on 20% of his body. His condition has been upgraded from critical to serious condition. While mystery still surrounds the cause of the helicopter crash, there were reports of it appearing to malfunction moments after lift-off, quickly becoming engulfed in flames. A “Helihub.com” search today (3/20/2014) for all 2014 helicopter accidents (globally) now reveals 102 accidents Year-to-Date. Of these, 23% involved one or more on-board and/or on-the-ground fatalities, totaling 59 dead.... Atlantic Health’s appeal to the NJDOT for an additional dangerous, rooftop helipad should be emphatically denied. When are we to hear of NJDOT’s final decision after Summit and the NJ Court have both denied the dangerous helipad plan? http://abcnews.go.com/US/helicopter-crashes-seattle-space-needle/story?id=22954771 http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/news-helicopter-involved-fiery-crash-feet-seattle-space-needle-article-1.1725382

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