Queens lawmakers laud mayor’s plan to bring new healthcare facility to Far Rockaway

Mayor Eric Adams is planning to bring a new healthcare facility to Far Rockaway, where St. John’s Episcopal is currently the only hospital among smaller healthcare clinics on the peninsula. (Photo courtesy of SJEH)

Mayor Eric Adams is planning to bring a new healthcare facility to Far Rockaway under his “Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent” economic recovery plan for New York City released on March 10. 

The mayor’s plan outlines an ambitious agenda to reimagine the future of New York City’s economy built on equity and inclusivity, following two years of hardship amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“New York City’s recovery cannot and will not be about going back to the way things were. We are going to rebuild, renew and reinvent our city and our economy for today, tomorrow and generations to come,” Adams said. “This is more than a to-do list — it is a complete reset with more than 70 concrete actions we will take to tear down the barriers to progress and build up a strong, resilient city with opportunity for everyone.” 

One of the mayor’s initiatives in the plan involves improving long-term health outcomes in downtown Far Rockaway, a neighborhood facing disproportionate health disparities and impacts of COVID. Through a new public health facility and improvements to local parks, the city will provide local access to new community health resources and wellness programs, modeled after programs elsewhere in the city, according to the mayor’s plan. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who has been a staunch and tireless advocate for bringing additional healthcare facilities to the Rockaway peninsula, says he looks forward to working with Adams to “deliver a facility worthy of these communities.” 

“Ending the healthcare disparities Rockaway families face has been a top priority of mine for years. I’m thankful @NYCMayor has joined the push to bring a new healthcare facility to Rockaway,” Richards wrote on Twitter

Richards, along with Senator James Sanders Jr. and Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson, sent a letter to the mayor’s office on March 4 on the importance of bringing healthcare equity to Far Rockaway, and a new NYC Health + Hospital facility. 

Significant progress was made under former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to make the project a reality, according to the lawmakers. However, the plan was dropped by NYC Health + Hospitals during last fall’s mayoral transition. 

In their letter, the lawmakers outlined COVID’s impact on the Rockaway peninsula and outreach equity in those communities that have been an “abject failure at worst.” 

“With one already overburdened hospital, St. John’s Episcopal, and a smattering of smaller healthcare clinics on the peninsula, however, Rockaway families have little to no access to the medical care they deserve,” the lawmakers said in the letter. 

According to the lawmakers, the closest Level 1 Adult Trauma Center is Jamaica Hospital, which is more than 10 miles away, while the nearest Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center, Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center, is nearly 13 miles from the peninsula’s eastern end and more than 23 miles from its western tip. 

“Even for families lucky enough to own a vehicle, it can take upwards of an hour or more for Rockaway families to reach these facilities,” the lawmakers said. “Meanwhile, the Neponsit Adult Day Healthcare Center, which largely caters to individuals with cognitive impairments, has been shuttered for numerous reasons since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving peninsula seniors to suffer from a lack of critical services.” 

According to the lawmakers, funding and constructing an NYC Health + Hospitals in Far Rockaway is a start to addressing healthcare disparities and improving the health and wellbeing of its residents. 

“The Queens Borough President’s Office and the ‘World’s Borough’ have done right by NYC Health + Hospitals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting our healthcare heroes in every sense of the word and working day and night to ensure as many residents as possible get tested, vaccinated and boosted,” Richards said. “As we emerge from the omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and fuel Queens’ comeback, it’s now NYC Health + Hospitals and city government’s turn to finally do right by the families of Rockaway.” 

In a statement to QNS, Anderson said it is no secret the Rockaways are grossly underserved in terms of healthcare and medical needs while noting the closure of the Peninsula Hospital in 2012 that left residents with only one emergency room at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, which was already overburdened before. 

“COVID-19 had wrecked this inadequate health system, and I am glad Mayor Eric Adams senses the urgency the peninsula faces,” Anderson said. “The new NYC Health facility recently announced by the mayor in his economic recovery plan is one of the many steps to ensure healthcare equity to Rockaway.”