The Civic Scene: Hillcrest civic concerned about facilities proposals

By Bob Harris

The Hillcrest Estates Civic Association is concerned with the Queens Hospital Center’s plans to build medical facilities and a school. The civic is between the hospital center and St. John’s University, two giant facilities that can build “as of right.” Over the decades these institutions have expanded, increasing the amount of people, cars, noise, pollution and trash in the area.

The rebuilding of Queens Hospital Center provided a 200-bed hospital a couple of years ago, although the community felt there should have been more beds. Now the hospital wants to add a pavilion for medical offices.

The problem is that there is a large plot of vacant land created from the destruction of the old hospital. There are proposals to add four structures to this plot, which some say will overwhelm the community.

One of the proposals is to build a new Gateway to the Health Sciences High School, which is currently on 87th Road. Gateway has 550 students who participate in internships at Queens Hospital Center and enrichment courses after school and during the summer at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. It has students from seventh grade through high school.

The Department of Education wants to increase the school to 800 students, but there is no provision for any on-site parking for the facilities. The community is concerned.

What residents probably do not realize is that about 200 Hillcrest High School practical nursing students and some of the 500 health careers students study at Queens Hospital Center part of each day. They can be seen in their uniforms going from facility to facility.

The Land Use Committee of Community Board 8 has been concerned about any large buildings on the campus. Kevin Forrestal, president of the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association and member of Community Board 8, has been involved with this situation for years.

One problem is that the Health and Hospitals Corp. and the Department of Education bureaucracies don’t like to have people question their activities. They like to give answers after they have made decisions. Their motives may be pure, but their solutions may lead to more problems for the R-2 zoned homes and their owners.

The Gateway school is proposed for Goethals Avenue, where Bob Traybold lives. He was a member of the Hillcrest Estates board but was unhappy with not getting any answers, so he resigned from the civic and started collecting signatures against the school. Traybold has collected 500 signatures and held a hearing about the school.

Local legislators attended his meeting and hearings have been going on for years after pressure from CB 8 members, but there are no firm answers. What the community plans next may determine the solution.

Another building being constructed on the site is a medical storage supply facility, which should not add congestion if there are loading docks inside the building and not on the street. A proposed medical examiner building may not cause congestion if there is parking provided on site or in the parking garage of the hospital. But if people are charged for parking they will just park on the street, even if they block the driveways of people’s homes.

A presentation was given at the Dec. 10 CB 8 meeting by Kenneth Brown, president and CEO of the Margaret Teitz Rehabilitation Center. The center wants to acquire the “T” Building on the Queens Hospital Center Campus and turn it into a life-care residence where people can buy apartments.

The facility will have its own medical, nursing and social areas. As the people get older they could move into a more health-care-oriented part of the building. It is claimed that the five acres will not have a negative impact on the community.

After the discussion, CB 8 Chairman Alvin Warshaviak voiced concern that the city is getting very little money for the property, saying that when added up, this use and the other uses for the campus will overwhelm the surrounding community.

It was also stated that these uses leave little if any open green spaces in this very large community facility and that it would cost up to $500,000 to purchase one of the apartments. That is a lot of money for the city to give away to Margaret Teitz, even if it is a philanthropic organization.

Good news of the week

A couple of months ago a house caught on fire on 190th Street in Fresh Meadows. A couple of screws on a light socket in this 60-year-old house became loose, an arc was created and it caused a fire. Police Officers Kevin Kramer and Kenneth Clausey of the 107th Precinct responded to the alarm at 5:20 a.m. They helped the owner, her mother and a dog and two cats escape. This was a good job by two of our 107th Precinct officers.

Bad news of the week

A number of letters in the TimesLedger have been complaining about the parking problems caused by doctors’ offices in Bay Terrace. These community facilities require parking, but there are so many apartment houses in the area that parking is tight — especially since the Bay Terrace Shopping Center built more commercial stores.

And with parking so tight inside the shopping center, the owners do not permit people to park there and then visit nearby doctors. This is another example of our zoning problems in Queens. Will we soon be like Manhattan?

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