Peconic Bay Medical Center's new critical care pavilion overlooks the McGann-Mercy campus. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Peconic Bay Medical Center Foundation has acquired the former Bishop McGann-Mercy High School site from the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

The medical center foundation paid $14 million for the 24.8-acre site adjacent to Peconic Bay Medical Center’s main campus in Riverhead, PBMC president and CEO Andrew Mitchell said.

The property has been unoccupied since the diocese closed the junior-senior high school in June 2018. The diocese announced the closing in March of that year, stunning school families, faculty, staff and the Riverhead community.

A contract of sale was signed Feb. 5 and the deal was finalized last week in a closing that took place remotely over several days, due to the coronavirus crisis.

View of Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School building from a window in PBMC’s new intensive care unit. File photo: Denise Civiletti

PBMC has no immediate plans for the property, Mitchell said.

“Over the next year, the PBMC Foundation will seek Riverhead Town and broad community input to develop a long-range strategic plan for the campus,” Mitchell said.

Peconic Bay Medical Center, which became part of the Northwell Health system in January 2016, has been expanding its clinical programs and services as well as its facilities, including the recently opened Corey Critical Care Pavilion and Kanas Regional Heart Center.

The purchase allows the hospital to “proceed in planning for the continuation of service to the community with much needed expanded health care services,” PBMC Foundation chair Emilie Roy Corey said in a statement.

When the diocese announced the school closure in March 2018, “we were as surprised as anyone,” Mitchell said.

PBMC had for years leased a portion of a school parking lot to relieve its longstanding parking shortage at the Riverhead facility. But the potential availability of the entire site was of interest to hospital officials.

Mitchell, who is also president and chief executive officer of PBMC Foundation, said the foundation didn’t seek to discuss a possible purchase with the diocese until after Riverhead Central School District officials announced last year the McGann-Mercy site would not meet its needs and it would look to add classroom capacity by other means.

He indicated to the Riverhead Planning Board in September that the hospital might be entering into negotiations with the diocese to buy the site.

“There was no way we could pass up on 24 contiguous acres,” Mitchell said this weekend.

Satellite image: Google Earth

The Diocese of Rockville Centre purchased the property from the Sisters of Mercy in February 2006 for $3.76 million.

The school was founded as Mercy High School in 1956 by the Sisters of Mercy in Brooklyn. It was housed in a temporary building on Roanoke Avenue until its building on Ostrander Avenue was completed and dedicated in 1962. The school expanded to include a junior high school in September 1994.

In 2002, the school entered into a partnership with the Diocese of Rockville Centre and in September 2003, the school was officially renamed Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School, honoring the second bishop of the diocese.

McGann-Mercy was the only Catholic high school on the East End. The diocese said dwindling enrollment and increasing annual subsidies, totaling more than $16 million from 2007 to 2017, factored into its decision to close the school in 2018. At the same time, the diocese also closed two local elementary schools, Our Lady of Mercy in Cutchogue and St. Isidore School in Riverhead and established St. John Paul II Regional School at the St. Isidore site in Riverhead.

After the diocese announced in March 2018 that the school would close down in June, school families and alumni formed a group to try to save the school. After it became clear the diocese would not entertain the idea, the group sought to establish an independent Catholic high school there as a STEAM magnet school. But the group’s negotiations with the diocese did not bear fruit.

“Knowing that this property, which has been dormant since the school closed, will in the future provide much-needed healthcare for the community, will be a great tribute to St. Catherine McCauley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy,” diocesan communications director Sean Dolan said in a statement.

PBMC Foundation will reach out to alumni to create a “Heritage Honor Wall” in the hospital to recognize the legacy of the school, Mitchell said. 

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