By Anna Gustafson
Queens elected officials said Monday they will attempt to squash any attempt to bring a detention center to the Parkway Hospital site in Forest Hills.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Director of Community Boards at Queens Borough Hall Karen Koslowitz held a news conference outside Parkway Hospital Monday afternoon to respond to a deposition filed Oct. 15 in federal court by Thomas Seaman, the court-appointed receiver for Medical Capital Holdings, a defunct investment firm that originally issued Parkway’s mortgage. Seaman said he may be forced to turn the building into a detention center if it does not reopen as a hospital.
Parkway Hospital closed one year ago and its administrators have recently been fighting in court to reopen the institution. A federal court judge in Manhattan last week denied Parkway officials’ motion for a preliminary injunction to reopen the hospital.
“There are no plans out there to use this facility as anything other than a health facility,” Weiner said.
The lawmakers said they reached out to government officials at the city, state and federal levels about Parkway and were assured there were no plans to construct a jail facility at Parkway. All detention centers are state-run, so there is no possibility a privately operated detention center could be built there, Weiner said.
“The state has a $3 billion to $5 billion shortfall, and we face serious budget problems,” Stavisky said. “Opening a prison is not in the cards.”
Koslowitz, also a Democratic candidate running to replace City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), said the current city zoning for the site is R1-2A, which allows for residential buildings or a community center like the hospital. The creation of a detention center would not receive the go-ahead without the city legislators approving a zoning change, Koslowitz said.
“Open Parkway Hospital,” Koslowitz said. “Queens has lost 600 beds in the past year.”
Not long after Parkway closed in November, St. John’s in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate in Jamaica shuttered their doors as well.
Parkway, a 251-bed facility, halted the majority of its operations after filing for bankruptcy and losing its state operating license last fall. It was one of the hospitals the state Commission on Healthcare Facilities in the 21st Century, known as the Berger Commission, mandated to close because the panel said the area had too many unused hospital beds.
Weiner, Stavisky, Koslowitz and Hevesi all said Parkway should either be reopened or the site should host another health care facility.
“A correction facility at Parkway is a non-starter,” Hevesi said. “We’d like to have another health facility here.”
Lynn Schulman, a Democrat running on the Working Families Party line against Koslowitz, said she believed a detention center would be “totally inappropriate for the area.”
“We need hospitals in the area,” Schulman said.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.