By Naeisha Rose
Some staffers at the Queens Community Medicaid Office are dismayed by a last-minute change that will mean the consolidation of the borough’s Medicaid operations in one Long Island City location.
The Medicaid office in Jamaica was supposed to reopen at 165-08 88th Ave. in Jamaica Oct. 2, but will open instead at 32-20 Northern Blvd. in Long Island City where there are fewer transportation options and no wheelchair-accessible subway stations, according to one Medicaid staffer who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.
The Jamaica office had serviced the southeast Queens area for more than 30 years before it was closed in October 2011. The staff was led to believe the same location would be furnished by August before the move-in date.
The Jamaica location would have been near two bus hubs, which have 35 buses, the LIRR and four subways that are wheelchair accessible. The new location is near two bus stops and four subways, according to staffers.
Medicaid offices throughout Queens have been closed down and combined slowly over the past six years as part of a pilot program under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to the staffer. The offices at Elmhurst Hospital and Far Rockaway were also closed in 2011.
The city’s Human Resources Administration said the lease at 45-12 32nd Place in Long Island City, where the Queens Community Medicaid Office is now based, is close to expiring. The community office will be forced to move to another Long Island City facility on Northern Boulevard instead of the former Jamaica location.
HRA spokeswoman Lourdes Centeno said Medicaid recipients are not required to visit an office for amenities and can just apply through the mail or request a visit if they are homebound, and in some cases can be dealt with over the phone.
Centeno also said HRA simply wants to keep its services in one facility.
“The new location in Long Island City provides New Yorkers with the ability to access a wide range of services under one roof, including HRA’s Homelessness Diversion Unit, Mobile Outreach Team, a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Center and Job Center,” Centeno said. “As with every other New York City Agency, HRA is continuously seeking to make the best possible use of spaces available to city agencies to ensure that we are operating in the most effective and efficient manner.”
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) weighed in on the situation.
“It is a profound disappointment that the Medicaid office is not reopening in Jamaica, as originally planned,” Lancman said. “As it stands today, many in my district and in other parts of Queens face long commutes, limited mass transit options, and a lack of handicap accessibility when traveling to a Medicaid office. A move back to Jamaica would remedy these problems, and make it easier for Queens’ residents, particularly in southeast Queens, to receive information and services.
“I implore the mayor and the Human Resources Administration to reconsider this decision and move to reopen the Medicaid office in Jamaica.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose