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A community task force working to influence the use of the St. Albans Veterans Hospital campus determined last week that housing for seniors and veterans, expanded recreation facilities and a hospital would top its wish list for the 55-acre campus scheduled for redevelopment.
The three new projects are in addition to the 10-acre educational complex for which the group had asked the government for previously. In August, VA Secretary R. James Nicholson announced his decision to replace existing facilities at St. Albans and to make all but five acres of the 55-acre campus owned by the United States Veterans Administration (VA) available for reuse.
The task force of over two dozen local politicians or their representatives and members of the community gathered in the Jamaica Avenue offices of U.S. Congressmember Gregory Meeks on Monday, November 20. As the meeting began, Meeks clarified that although the task force had previously thought that the VA might sell part of the property to allow for the development of private housing, it was mistaken.
&#8220That is not possible. They are not selling the land,” Meeks said. &#8220Now, they are interested in having the possibility of assisted living,” for veterans and seniors, he continued. &#8220So if that is something that the community is interested in they can accommodate that, but that would be the only type of housing that they’re interested in.”
A proposed assisted and independent veterans and senior living complex received strong support from task force members including City Councilmember Leroy Comrie.
&#8220One of the biggest things in my community is seniors who would like to stay in St. Albans, but they don’t want to stay in their homes anymore,” he explained. &#8220They’d like to have a seniors’ assisted facility where they could live and that they could still shop and go to their doctors and go to their stores and go to their churches.”
An expansion of Roy Wilkins Park and Family Service Centers including a larger fitness center, swimming pool and expanded parking proposed by William Nelson, President of the Southern Queens Park Association, Inc., which administrates the park, also held strong appeal for the task force.
The proposition was seconded by Greg Mays, President of the Addis Leigh Park Civic Association, who commented on a lack of swimming pools and winter sports in South Queens.
&#8220There’s Liberty Pool,” he began. &#8220You couldn’t possibly dream of drowning in that pool because it’s so crowded everybody’s standing up in the thing.” Mays added, &#8220We have no winter sports in this community. If figure skating in Harlem is booming, if ice hockey in Harlem is booming, then I’m not sure why we have go all the way to Flushing Meadow-Corona Park to do some ice skating. We have no recreation in this community.”
The task force also agreed it would propose that a hospital be located on the St. Albans campus and reiterated its preference that a high-performance educational complex consisting of an elementary school, a middle school and a high school also be built there.
The planning comes following an assessment of the St. Albans facility as part of the VA’s Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services, a comprehensive study of the agency’s healthcare infrastructure that began in 2002.
The VA included St. Albans among 18 sites it selected in 2004 for additional analysis and recently found that its facilities are being underutilized. In August VA Secretary R. James Nicholson announced his decision to replace existing facilities at St. Albans with a nursing home, outpatient clinics and housing consolidated at the northern end of the campus. As a result of the decision all but five of the 55-acre campus could be leased for other uses such as housing, office, educational or retail.
During the meeting, the task force spoke with Jay Halpern, a special assistant to Nicholson, via conference call.
&#8220Let me tell you on behalf of Secretary Nicholson that he’s absolutely committed to working with your community on a re-use that really does make sense for you,” Halpern said, suggesting a two-phase process to determine the re-use balance of the site that would include a meeting between VA officials and the community task force followed by a public hearing.

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