Feds want Flake associate for new VA plans

By Ivan Pereira

After years of postponed planning, the federal government has moved forward with its plans to redevelop the land of the St. Albans VA Hospital, but veterans in the area are furious they were left out of the discussions and over the choice for the developer, a former colleague of the Rev. Floyd Flake.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said Friday it would enter into negotiations with St. Albans Village LLC, one of three developers that submitted a request for proposals for the 2006 plan to redevelop the 55-acre site.

The company was selected as a preferred developer and will be going over its recommendations with the VA over the 25 acres that will be set aside for private development, according to VA spokesman John Mazzulla.

The spokesman stressed that St. Albans Village has not been selected as the final developer, but this step forces it to give more specific plans of what it wants to do with the space.

“They go forward as the developer with more detailed plans to show the VA how they would progress with the project. It doesn’t mean they will go forward,” he said.

As part of the plan, which has been ongoing for the last four years, the remaining 33 acres will be set aside for a brand new VA hospital that will be created after the current facility is demolished.

Mazzulla said plans for the hospital are pending the development of the private space on the land.

Marvin Jeffcoat, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Queens County Council, said he was disappointed with the VA’s decision to move forward because he and fellow veterans wanted the entire site to be dedicated to a new hospital. He added that the community is afraid the developer will use the space provided to build private housing or other buildings that will not be suitable for the some 60,000 veterans living in Queens.

“We need that VA retrofitted and upgraded. It doesn’t need to be torn down,” he said.

Jeffcoat said the veterans have demanded the developer use the space to build a psychiatric center for veterans, a women’s veterans health center or housing for veterans. He said the veterans were considering filing an injunction against the VA for going ahead with the plan.

One of the administrators of the development company has been involved in controversy in the last few years over housing projects. The Rev. Edwin Reed, who formerly worked as the chief executive officer of Allen Affordable Housing, a development group under the Rev. Floyd Flake’s Greater Allen AME Cathedral, was identified by the VA as a top administrator of St. Albans Village LLC.

During his tenure at Allen, Reed was accused of neglect by tenants in several Jamaica apartment buildings that had poor maintenance. The tenants claimed Reed used sneaky tactics to force them out of their homes.

Reed was also a board member of the controversial nonprofit New Direction Local Development Corp. The defunct organization is being investigated by the federal government for possible misuse of donations for several causes.

Reed did not return several phone calls for comment before press time Tuesday afternoon.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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