A proposal to turn the historic T Building on Queens Hospital Center’s grounds into 206 units of affordable housing has resumed after several years of missteps and controversy, according to local leaders and a politician.
As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing initiative, the city has restarted the process of turning the former tuberculosis center in Hillcrest into a residential building.
But plans to do something with the medical building go back to at least 2012 when the Queens Hospital Center worked with a nonprofit human services agency to develop the dilapidated 10-story building on its campus into 251 units of affordable housing. Community leaders and politicians like state Senator Tony Avella killed that plan, along with others.
“The new proposal is much better than the original proposal,” said Avella, who has been working closely with the community and city officials to develop plans. “Are there still things that have to be worked out? Of course. We want some more details. And we will continue to crystalize the plans.”
The city’s plans for the building are still in the early phases, and the city hasn’t publicly released any details. But, according to Avella, the new proposal addresses all of the issues raised by the community – from preserving the historic building to making sure that the community is comfortable with who the new residents will be.
During a recent Community Board 8 meeting, board members expressed concern over plans to make 75 of the apartment units into studios that will be occupied by hospital patients who are discharged and have nowhere else to live.
“It makes no sense,” said Maria Deinnocentiis, a community board member. “We said we needed affordable housing, not this. I’m worried that these homeless people will be there so close to our schools and children.”
But Avella confirmed that the city and a private consulting firm they hired, Dunn Associates, would do a rigorous background check for the hospital patients who become residents. Plans haven’t been finalized and it might be more than a year before any construction starts.
“I was the one that led the fight to kill the original proposal,” Avella said. “They learned that they have to talk to the community and that’s what they’re doing. We’re approving a general theme to work out. It’s a step in the right direction.”