By Naeisha Rose
Residents of Holliswood were in an uproar after discovering that the old Holliswood Hospital, located at 87-37 Palermo St., had graffiti of swastikas and hate speech scrawled outside and inside the building.
The building’s owner, Steve Cheung, a developer, purchased the hospital over two years ago to make condominiums, but the project stalled when inhabitants of the area questioned him about parking for new dwellers, according to representatives of the Holliswood Civic Association. They accuse Cheung of letting the building fall into disrepair and blame him for the lack of security in the area.
Civic members think delinquents are behind the spray painting of the hospital.
City Councilman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), who lives one block away from the hospital, held a news conference in front of the dilapidated structure last week. City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) were also in attendance.
“We feel violated,” Weprin said. “It’s bad enough that the property is not maintained and falling apart, but it is particularly offensive when you have this type of hate speech, which should not be tolerated anywhere.”
During the press conference, Weprin displayed blown-up of photos of the inside of the hospital, which had writings of the N-word and “KKK.” Outside the hospital were spray-paintings of a naked female body and curses as well as drug and gang references.
“This is the most diverse place on the face of the Earth,” Grodenchik said. “We have people from all over the world living here in peace and harmony. They work together, they go to school together, they fall in love together, they fall out of love together, they do everything that humans can do, and they do it with a sense of tolerance.”
Standing in solidarity with the nearly 40 people at the news conference was Officer Peter Capozzi of the 107th Precinct.
“We have a message for these people, whoever may they be: You better cut it out, or the men and women of the 107th Precinct are going to cut you out of our community and take you off to jail where you deserve to be, because these acts are not freedom of expression. This is an act of vandalism and terror to millions and millions of Americans.”
Comrie reiterated the same sentiments.
“There is no reason for these children, or whoever these miscreants are, to come in and debase this property,” Comrie said, as Jewish and Sikh members of the community in their traditional garb stood behind him. “Queens is not a place of division. These are people acting out of malice.
“We have a tradition in Queens of diversity, of people coming here to a melting pot to make it a better place where their children could be raised. This is not our symbol.”
One person greatly affected by the lack of security of the building is Kathy Spirio.
“I’m behind the hospital on the rear side where they are breaking into the buildings because he (Cheung) does not secure the facility properly,” said Spirio. “I’ve called the police over 20 times during the past two months. The police said they do not have the authority to go on the property from the landlord. Steven Cheung needs to give the police authority to arrest anyone who is in there.”
Cheung was not available for comment.
President Linda Valentino, of the Holliswood Civic Association, was irate too.
“For several years, Mr. Cheung has owned this property and we’ve gone to him over and over asking for a security patrol, a fence, anything, and he has done absolutely nothing,” Valentino said. “It’s in deplorable condition and it was just screaming for this to happen. I’ve lived in Holliswood for over 60 years. He’s put a blight on Holliswood and he’s refused to do something about it. Now he has brought another situation to this neighborhood, one of hate and prejudice.”
Property developer Cheung was invited to the gathering by the elected officials, but did not attend.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose