Queens Hospital housing plan alarms community

Queens Hospital housing plan alarms community
Photo by Karen Frantz
By Karen Frantz

Some civic members are concerned about plans to turn a Queens Hospital Center building into a residence for people with low incomes and chronic conditions, saying they have been told it would house people with mental disabilities and HIV/AIDS.

“There’s a lot of questions about safety,” said Kevin Forrestal, a member of Community Board 8.

Queens Hospital Center recently made a presentation to CB 8 about the project, Forrestal said. Board members are worried because the residence, which would be at the vacant “T Building” on the Queens Hospital Campus, is close to two schools, he said.

“There was some concern about people with behavioral problems being so close to young children,” he said.

The T Building, on Parsons Boulevard between 82nd Drive and Goethals Avenue, is across the street from St. Nicholas of Tolentine Elementary School and around the corner from Queens Gateway to Health Sciences High School.

Though the building would have round-the-clock front desk coverage and security cameras both inside and outside the building, Forrestal said he was not as worried about security on the home’s grounds as he was about what might go on out in the general community.

The plan for the residence, which is still in the preliminary stages, envisions the T Building as 251 units of permanent housing. It would be operated by Comunilife, a city-based nonprofit that provides health and housing services to low-income and vulnerable individuals.

“Affordable, stable and quality housing with supportive services can help individuals with chronic conditions to live more independently, facilitates access to appropriate health care services and also helps to reduce emergency room use and hospital readmissions,” said Comunilife spokeswoman Olga Jobe in a statement.

Under the plan, Queens Hospital would lease the T Building to Comunilife, and Jobe said patients of Queens and Elmhurst hospitals with chronic conditions would be given preference for apartments. The remaining units would be offered via a lottery to low-income individuals with a preference for veterans and people living in the area.

Although Jobe said the project was not at the point of providing details about the residents’ specific conditions, both Forrestal and Bob Trabold, director of the Hillcrest-Jamaica Hills Neighborhood Association, said they had heard through Queens Hospital Center that the building would house people with mental disabilities and HIV/AIDS.

Trabold said he was alarmed because the building could house such a large number of people.

“That is a lot of people with problems in one spot,” he said.

Forrestal and Trabold said Queens Hospital is arguing it may build “as of right,” although both said they think that may not be true and the project may need city approval. In the meantime, Trabold has appealed to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) about the project and he is hoping to soon set up a meeting with Queens Hospital and Comunilife to air concerns.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.