The Civic Scene: Do not develop site of the St. Albans VA hospital

By Bob Harris

At a recent meeting of the Queens Civic Congress, Rene Hill, president of the Addisleigh Park Civic Association, told why the community was against giving almost half of the land at the St. Albans Veteran’s Hospital to a private developer.

It seems the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has closed the old VA hospital and only has a clinic at the location. The VA wants to keep 30 acres and give 25 acres to a developer. Veterans want a new, full-service hospital built on the property or the old building renovated and used as a hospital. Pat Toro, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, believes Queens has 37 percent more veterans living in it than the other boroughs. He believes the VA has been lying for years by saying there is no need for a VA hospital in Queens.

Since local legislators are supporting the community with the Addisleigh Park civic and the NAACP, they should do a check of the statistics to find out how many veterans are in Queens and how many have war-related injuries which do or will require treatment. With many Queens veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, there must be a need for a place where they can receive treatment.

For months veterans, community members, the NAACP and local legislators have been marching around the perimeter of the hospital with signs, banners and marching bands to express their views. Fliers with the name United Coalition for Veterans and Community Rights expresses feelings which are that the building should be preserved as a landmark and fixed as a hospital.

The United Coalition also believes the area has no need for multi-dwelling homes, since it consists of low-density, single-family homes with grass and trees and does not need overcrowding and more cement and bricks paving over green spaces.

The proposed plans for the land are to have a smaller, new hospital and two- and three-family homes and three- to five-story-high residential units and commercial property. There would be 1,400 new residential units. The veteran groups say that when they testify at hearings and tell the VA the community does not need nor can support such construction, the VA ignores them. For more information, visit ucvcr.com or e-mail renechill@ymail.com.

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: A few weeks ago, a tornado struck parts of Queens. Forest Hills and Bayside were devastated. While driving to TimesLedger Newspapers’ office, I found streets a few blocks away closed with large trees lying across them. Sidewalk slabs had been ripped up.

New York City mobilized. Every available worker and truck was pressed into service. In a couple of days, I started seeing trucks with addresses from Nassau County on their sides. A week later, I found that the trees had been sawed up so the streets were open, with the cut-up trees on the malls of many streets. A couple weeks later, the trees were gone.

The trucks and logs were deposited in the parking lot of Cunningham Park off of 196th Place at Union Turnpike and giant grinders ground up the trunks. All these trucks were parked in this lot at night while by day workers’ cars were parked in the lot. The trucks were out from daybreak until dark. This went on for about five weeks. Now the trucks are gone as is the pile of sawdust. The cars of tennis players, walkers and bocci players are back in Cunningham Park. Queens is back to normal. The city did a good job.

BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Bike lanes were created so people could go to work easily and in a green way, but these bike lanes are becoming dangerous places. Too many people stop their cars in bike lanes. People who park next to bike lanes open their car doors suddenly as bike rides peddle past. People stopping in the bike lane open their doors suddenly as bikes pass close by.

Bike riders sometimes have to swerve out into traffic to just pass these cars or suddenly swerve to avoid a door open suddenly. Several people have been killed when they swerved out into traffic to avoid a door opening suddenly.

There must be more signs, an advertising campaign and more enforcement to protect the sanctity of bicycle lanes. Bicycles are a green alternative to gasoline fumes and asthma, but bicycle riders must be protected. Some believe bicycle lanes have to be constructed better than the way they are now next to a traffic lane. Of course, bike riders have to respect red lights and not go the wrong way on streets. Let’s hope the city corrects the defects of the current bicycle lane system.

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