Homes planned for old Holliswood Hospital site

By Madina Toure

The Holliswood Civic Association is casting a cautious eye on preliminary plans to build a residential development at the former Holliswood Hospital site.

The 27-year-old, 125-bed, three-story private psychiatric hospital at 87-37 Palermo St. officially closed Aug. 16, 2013. The facility offered mental health services to the general population and and members of the military.

The owner, real estate developer Steve Cheung, along with architect Michael Kang, is planning to build 20 homes on currently vacant land at the site as well as 31 condos in the hospital building, according to Linda Valentino, the civic association’s president. The homes, which will be sold for $2.7 million each, will not have garages.

The site’s zoning is R1-2, or zoning for single-family detached residences. Valentino said a private road is needed for the homes. That would require a variance.

Cheung plans to create a homeowners association once the homes are completed.

The civic association’s concerns about the plan include noise, traffic, the lack of garages, pollution and the development’s being a big imposition on a neighborhood that is primarily without sidewalks and has curvy streets, Valentino said.

“This is a problem, but I don’t know how we’re going to fight it except that we hope to make him conform to the strict zoning rules,” she said.

Marie Adam-Ovide, CB 8’s district manager, said the board will review the condos, which will have to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure once they are set in stone.

“When we have more firm plans as to what they will do at that time, the community board will review everything and we’ll be able to comment,” Adam-Ovide said.

The owner and architect recently presented their plans to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), the Holliswood Civic Association, Community Board 8 and state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows).

“It’s good that the architect and the owner are willing to discuss and sit with the community and that’s where we’re at,” Avella said.

The site started as a doctor’s hospital in the 1940s, Valentino said. In the 1960s, it was sold to an organization to create an upscale drug rehab center for Fortune 500 CEOs, but it ended up becoming a general rehab.

During the summer of 2015, Valentino added, children broke into the hospital building. Cheung had to pay summonses because he did not secure the property, but he then boarded up the property, she said.

The previous owner, Liberty Management, which watched the site for two years after it closed, had a guard keeping an eye on the building, she said.

The site has two open violations, according to the city Department of Buildings, for doing construction work that was not in the formally approved plans and occupying the building in a manner not listed in the occupancy certificate. Previous violations include failure to maintain the boiler and the elevator.

Although the civic is working on a counter-proposal, Valentino said Cheung has probably had the property for about six months and is likely paying hefty taxes.

“I know he wants to do what he wants to do and whatever he wants to do and he’s allowed to do, we’re going to have a hard time fighting it,” she said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.