Astoria Houses gets temporary medical care unit

Governor Kathy Hochul and Rep. Carolyn Maloney unveil medical care unit at Astoria Houses Thursday, April 14. (Photo by Adrien Lesser.)

Local leaders and elected officials unveiled the new temporary medical care unit that will provide free COVID-19 vaccines and tests at Astoria Houses on Thursday, April 14.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney secured the 40-foot-long repurposed shipping container for the medical care unit by working with developers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), the city and state of New York, the New York City Housing Authority and other key players. 

The unit is operated by the Floating Hospital, a New York City charity hospital that provides healthcare to anyone in need. The site will operate on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Maloney pushed for this testing and vaccination site due to the lack of COVID resources near the Astoria Houses. Currently, there is only one permanent vaccination site within half mile of Astoria Houses and two in the entire 11102 ZIP code. 

“Until everyone in this city, in this country has affordable access to basic healthcare, we are not fully free or equal,” Maloney said. “Let us work towards a more perfect and healthier union.”

Maloney credits this lack of access to the high rates of  COVID-19 cases in the area, which is more than double that of Queens and New York City. Astoria’s case rate is 30,511, compared to rates in Queens, which is 13,353 and New York City’s rate of 12,611.

“Health care is and always should be a human right,” Maloney said. “This has not been more evident than in the past two years, as we confronted the coronavirus pandemic and millions of people were unable to access COVID-19 tests and vaccinations.”

Governor Kathy Hochul attended the launch of the medical center sharing that she is thankful Maloney advocated so strongly for this project. 

“We need to make sure New York’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is inclusive, equitable and fair,” Hochul said. “That’s why it’s so important to have sites like this new medical care unit at the Astoria Houses, bringing much-needed resources and services to communities that had been left behind for far too long. I’m grateful to the hard-working medical professionals who will ensure local residents have tests and vaccines.”

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people of color throughout the pandemic, which leaders recognized during the unveiling at the Astoria Houses. 

“This pandemic demonstrated that there are systemic disparities in healthcare access and therefore healthcare outcomes,” Hochul said. 

Reuters found in a study that the mostly white area of Gramercy Park in Manhattan had a rate of 31 deaths per 100,000 residents. In Far Rockaway, which is more than 40% black, the death rate is nearly 15 times higher: 444 deaths per 100,000 residents. 

NYCHA Chair and CEO Greg Russ, said that the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of bringing healthcare to as many communities as possible. 

“We are grateful to Congress member Maloney and The Floating Hospital for working with us to establish this testing and vaccine clinic — which will ensure that the continued health and safety of public housing residents is a top priority,” Russ said. 

Former president of the Astoria Houses Residents Association, Claudia Coger, has lived in Astoria for 68 years and said she has seen the extent of neglect in her community but thanked Maloney for her action.

“We are looking forward to this being a healthy community,” Coger said. “Children will stay healthy and stay in school. I thank you, Carolyn. She did not waste any time in order to bring this success.”

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