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Neighbor to Neighbor: Always reserve hospital land in St. Albans for our veterans

By Barbara Morris

Those of us who are civilians, grateful to those who have and are still serving in the military and NYPD, can only shake our heads at the risks these brave people take to protect us and the treatment they received after the fact.

The St. Albans veteran’s facility is nothing like it was during World War II, when my mother and I baked and took treats for the sailors there. The series of long, interconnected buildings disappeared many years ago and a great deal of the demolished property formed what is now Roy Wilkins Park. The remaining property, we thought, was to be a haven for veterans in perpetuity.

That was the way it was supposed to be. Instead, property-hungry entities schemed to get as much of what remains almost immediately. Veterans who needed special treatment were shunted elsewhere — Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan — no matter how difficult the long trip was for them. That system helped classify St. Albans as “underused.”

Efforts have been made for years to have the hospital upgraded to full service, but those who could and should make that happen have apparently still had their eyes fixed on other prospects and, probably, profits. From time to time the powers that be have tried to get the property for three schools, a high-rise building in Rochdale, a golf course, a botanical garden and who knows what else.

And what about the veterans who are there or might need a place to go to as a result of their actions in one of our wars? Many civilian hospitals have been forced to close because their patients all too often did not pay their bills. Well, folks, our veterans have more than paid — with their blood, private lives and fortunes. Let any foreign country cry for help and we cannot wait to pull out our federal checkbook. Any local civilian loudmouth group that demands benefits for themselves will be heard by electeds willing to placate in exchange for votes.

Veterans are always told veterans will have to wait to find out what and where their future will be. For shame! We have a lot of veterans in Queens and Nassau County who could and should be able to use a properly appointed facility and they and their supporters are willing to fight for it — as all our electeds should be as well.

On June 26, I heard city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio on the radio say Mayor Michael Bloomberg anticipates at least another million residents in the city next year, so they both want to build on every inch of land. The V.A. St. Albans land must be left alone. We will need as much help as possible to accomplish what should have been done for the veterans long ago.

While attending the Queens Civic Congress meeting about recommendations to the City Charter Revision Commission at the Queens Farm Museum, Addisleigh Park Civic Association President Renee Hill sat next to me. As is always the case, she and her group are planning to continue their hard-fought fight for the veterans at the St. Albans facility and we hope anyone who can help will do so.

The City Charter revision deserves much more mention than I can give it here. It was recommended, however, that there would be no land use changes this November because we need more meetings and August and September will be vacation time. Term limits was one topic that interested many particularly. The president of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton asked if there is any way voters could stop reversal of term limits once they were voted for. There was no response.

All borough presidents, however, recommend three four-year terms in office — thus opposing the two four-year terms voters had hoped electeds would not overturn, as they did. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Common Cause recommended that every community board have an urban planner. Our Queens speakers want to preserve the individuality of each community board, since each has different problems and positives.

But they agree community boards should all have a stronger voice. It was suggested City Council members should have staggered terms so they will not all be new at once, to which Rich Hellenbrecht said, “Talk about staggering: Queens Farm now has some great wine to sell from the grapes they grew.”

Queens Farm is a great place to visit. Have a safe and happy summer.

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