At a June 26 Longwood Medical Area (LMA) public forum, residents voiced concerns about noise from helicopters that land at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in response to a proposal to change the location of the landing pad, and heard a proposal about an expansion of a Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences building.
Steve Dempsey, executive director of BWH’s real estate and facilities, described the Hospital’s Helipad Relocation project, which will move the existing helipad within the campus boundaries from the roof of the Connors Building to the roof of the Tower Building.
The helipad serves flights that are “transporting patients with time-critical injuries and conditions to medical facilities and providing medical care to patients while en route,” according to the guidelines for the Use and Availability of Helicopter Emergency Medical Transport (HEMS). The flights are operated by Boston Medflight, which is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency medical transportation in the regional area, from highways and homes from as far as eastern New York and Maine. Patients that are serviced with the BWH helipad are headed to Children’s Hospital’s pediatric level 1 Trauma Center or Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Level 1 Trauma Center or Burn Center.
In 2016, the helipad serviced 556 flights, which is an average of 1.5 flights per day. The approximate duration of landing is one to two minutes. The pilots are trained to use specific flight paths to alleviate noise disruption, but actual flight paths may depend on wind conditions and safety considerations.
“No pilot is trained to approach over a neighborhood unless it’s the only safe choice,” Dempsey said. He said that the pilots are instructed to fly at an altitude of 1,000 feet until they reach the landing area.
The relocation is a result of the new clinical building being constructed at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“Due to the crane needed to erect the building and the final height of Children’s new building itself, pilots could not land on the existing helipad safely,” Dempsey said. “The Children’s building will become a barrier for safe landings. We have no choice but to do it.”
BWH realized that the new building at Children’s would be a problem for the helicopters about a year ago. Children’s anticipated no safety problems when they proposed the new building, but Boston Medflight realized that there would be a safety problem. Dempsey said that the proposal to move the helipad station came to fruition only in the last several months “after considering all options.” Children’s will pay for the construction of the helipad.
Some residents asked why the helipad could not be placed on the roof of the new Children’s building, but Dempsey said that there will be too much machinery on top of the building and there will not be enough room for it.
The new helipad location is 242 feet away and 58 feet higher from the old helipad, which will no longer be used after the new one is built and operational. Flight paths will move slightly north and slightly west.
“We don’t have reason to believe that the relocation will increase flights to this center,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey said that the pilots are pleased with the new location, as there will be a simpler and safer landing for them.
A handful of residents at the forum expressed concern about the noise of the helicopters going over their neighborhood.
“Yesterday our neighborhood was very loud because of a helicopter,” Jacqueline Boston, Mission Hill resident said. “We had to leave the house.”
Dempsey said that it is unusual for a helicopter to leave its engines running for longer than necessary after landing, and that there are also police and news helicopters that may fly in the area that do not use the helipad.
At the request of Roxbury Tenants of Harvard, BWH hired consultants to do sound monitoring in February at seven community locations and a flyover exercise was done to simulate the new flight path. The results showed that the noise conditions with the new helipad location would be about the same as they are today.
BWH hopes to begin construction on the new helipad in October, and expect to use the new location starting in September of 2018.
Another presentation at the forum was given by Rick Lessard, executive vice president and COO & CFO for MCPHS University, about plans to expand the president’s residence at 700-702 to include 704 Huntington Ave. This expansion will be the first amendment to the MCPHS University Institutional Master Plan.
The existing building at 700-702 Huntington is called the Brant House, and is used for the president’s personal use and social University functions. The 704 Huntington Ave. building was previously owned by Joan Adams, who passed away last year.
“Joan was a big supporter of MCPHS, and we worked with her estate and relatives and were able to secure the parcel so that we can expand the Brant house by about 2,000 square feet,” Lessard said.
MCPHS purchased the Brant House about 20 years ago.
Construction to connect the two buildings would involve breaking through walls around fireplaces. There would be penetrations to include doorways and doors to connect the buildings. The doors are already in the building because they were found in storage, and will be refurbished for the project.
“This building is a wonderful historic asset to the neighborhood,” said Alison Pultinas. “It’s very important to maintain the exterior and the garden.”
No exterior renovations are proposed, only cosmetic interior renovations and the penetrations to allow for doorways. There will be no changes to the use of the other rooms, meaning that the kitchen and bedrooms will remain the way they are and may be used as socialization rooms. There will also be no scaffolding or heavy machinery required.
There were no public complaints made at the forum about MCPHS’s proposed expansion.
Comments or questions about the presentations at LMA Forum can be sent to Katelyn Sullivan of the Boston Planning and Development Agency at [email protected].