Community Angered With Board 7 Leaders

Flushing residents recently lashed out at Community Board 7 leaders for their lack of communication at a recent zoning meeting, stemming from the plans by New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ) to take over an area of parkland that will be turned into a parking lot while a new wing and garage facility is built.
At the end of the zoning meeting, that dealt more with NYHQ’s new multi-million dollar construction of a west wing and multi-story garage, community members criticized Board members for withholding information about the lease between the hospital and the Parks Department regarding a space in Kissena Park Corridor.
“A community board is a vehicle; it’s an entity for information,” said Myra Baird-Herce, a community resident who also serves on the advisory board at NYHQ. “That’s why all of these people are livid. They woke up to bulldozers. None of us knew. That’s what I’m hurt by.”
As the meeting wore on, many of those in attendance, specifically Baird-Herce, singled out District Manager Marilyn Bitterman and Community Board 7 Chair Eugene Kelty. They claimed the two knew about the proposed deal between the Parks Department and NYHQ, but failed to forward the information to the community.
“She instructed her staff not to leak the information,” Beverly McDermott, President of the Kissena Park Civic Association said. “I don’t believe anything they say. Frankly, I find them to be misleading.”
Bitterman admitted learning of the three-year lease that will see NYHQ pay the Parks Department $23,000 per month, shortly prior to the November 14 board meeting.
She immediately sought out NYHQ Director of Public Affairs Paul Pickard who was at the meeting for a presentation, and advising him not to announce the plans for the park.
Bitterman then told Kelty of the plan, and he advised board member Kim Ohanian to organize a parks committee meeting to announce the lease. Two weeks later, the news was shared.
“Any time the hospital has said we want to use the Kissena Corridor for parking, we’ve said no,” said Bitterman. “[But] legally they kept us out of it.”
Pickard said the hospital was in negotiations with Kissena Park since mid-2005, and that he reached out to Kelty and Bitterman last July with information.
Under the condition of the lease, the park, a non-used bocce court along 56th Avenue and Main Street, must be returned to its original form. Along with the gravel parking lot, a meditation center and play area for children will be built on the 2.5 acre plot of land.
“The residents have every right to be upset about the lack of information available,” said Councilman John Liu, who had a representative at the meeting and has met with NYHQ officials and members of the community.

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