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Ronald McDonald House Seeks to Add Isolation Rooms For Kid Cancer Patients

By Shaye Weaver | January 15, 2016 5:29pm | Updated on January 18, 2016 9:34am
 The Ronald McDonald House on East 73rd Street is planning to expand to make room for more families.
The Ronald McDonald House on East 73rd Street is planning to expand to make room for more families.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

UPPER EAST SIDE — The Ronald McDonald House, which offers temporary housing to pediatric cancer patients and their families on East 73rd Street, is planning an expansion that would allow the facility to meet increasing demand for lodging. 

The proposed expansion would reconfigure existing space in the 11-story building to make room for 11 new family suites and six "immunosuppression" rooms, which are used to isolate patients who have undergone marrow transplants.

The Ronald McDonald House, which houses children and families from all over the globe while they're undergoing treatment at one of the 13 New York hospitals, is already having to turn families away every day since there isn't enough room for them, according to Friedman.

He said the increase in hospitals with pediatric oncology programs has contributed significantly to the demand on the Ronald McDonald House.

The plan, which would increase the number of units in the building from 84 to 95, is currently being reviewed by the Board of Standards and Appeals to allow the organization to exceed the maximum square footage allowed at the 405-411 E. 73rd St. site.

The new isolation rooms would allow the house to take in patients with more specific needs. Each of them will have its own kitchen, washer and dryer, dining room, play space and room for the patient's family members.

"It will be a different experience than what other facilities can offer patients right now," said Shelly Friedman, the land use attorney representing the Ronald McDonald House. "We would be pioneering these suites for families, who are coming to New York and would otherwise have to spend $400 bucks a night for a hotel."

Once approved, the entrance to the building will be pulled up closer to the street, and the lofty atrium would be reduced from four stories to two, creating second and third floors. The libraries, also on the first level, will be reduced from two to one story.

The third, seventh, ninth and 10th floors, which are set back from the street, will be pulled forward creating more space. All the changes together would produce an extra 7,000-square-feet, according to the plans filed with BSA.

The expansion would take roughly one year to complete and occupancy would be reduced from time to time during construction, Friedman said.

"We're doing this in a very gentle fashion," he added. "The house will remain open but we will be reducing occupancy as necessary, up and down with the work being done in the rooms."

The expansion plan won unanimous support from Community Board 8 on Wednesday night.

"The difference in the exterior of the building will be [minimal] compared to the extraordinary service and accommodations that this house provides to children diagnosed with cancer," said Jim Clynes, the Community Board 8 chairman. "It was one of the easiest and most gratifying votes ever taken in my 10 years on CB8."