By Bill Parry
Leaders of Planned Parenthood NYC joined with a dozen elected officials for a groundbreaking ceremony for their $9 million health care center in Long Island City last week. Construction at the site — a former hardware store and office building at 21-41 45th Road — has entered its second phase and is on schedule to open in May.
“Already, nearly 5,400 Queens residents travel to other boroughs to come to PPNYC health centers,” President Joan Malin said. “There’s a clear need for more sexual and reproductive health services in Queens and opening this new center will enable Planned Parenthood to better serve the health care needs of all New Yorkers.” She added that the facility was expected to eventually handle 17,500 patients a year.
The center will be PPNYC’s first in Queens since the organization closed a clinic in Rockaway nearly 45 years ago.
“It’s such a big deal that we have this opening in Queens,” Borough President Melinda Katz said at the Oct. 16 ceremony. “But at the same time it’s a shame that in this day and age, having a facility like this open is still a big deal.”
Katz was joined by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and state Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood), all of whom have fought for decades for women’s health care issues. “Thirty years ago these things were whispered about when I was new to the state Assembly,” Nolan said. “All this time we’ve been strategizing to bring these services to Queens where they are so desperately needed.”
Services at the health center will include birth control, Pap tests, breast and cervical cancer screenings, pregnancy testing and counseling, gynecological care, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing and counseling, as well as abortion services.
“Queens is the fastest growing and most diverse county in the United States,” PPNYC Board Chairwoman Diane Max said. “But six in 10 pregnancies are unintentional. Clearly it’s essential that this community needs a responsible health care provider and that provider is Planned Parenthood.”
With nearly 14 percent of the Queens population living below the poverty level and the highest rate of uninsured women and girls in all five boroughs, the addition of the facility will positively affect countless individuals in the surrounding area.
“The fact that Queens did not have a Planned Parenthood location was very concerning to me, because more than 54 percent of my district are women,” Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said. “I’m so thrilled that women are going to be receiving comprehensive health care services in one location. There’s going to be the utmost privacy, and they don’t really have to travel too far to get what I think is a basic human right for everbody-health care.”
The new health care center is less than a half block from the Court Square station on the No. 7 subway line.
“The addition of a Planned Parenthood health center in Queens is a positive step towards ensuring all borough residents have the quality health care they deserve,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “This facility will transform lives and empower women and girls.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.