Op-Ed: Opportunity and optimism in eastern Queens

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards (l.) and Empire State Development President Hope Knight

Here in Queens, New York City’s largest borough, finding a place to build something new can be a challenge.

But the crises of our day aren’t waiting for us to find the space we need to address them. Expanding our affordable housing stock, creating new recreational areas and adding school seats in overcrowded districts require it, but space is at such a premium in the “World’s Borough.” For Queens to be the true live, work and play borough we know it can be for our families, we must embrace opportunities to think beyond the ordinary and be creative in our approach to community development.

One potentially promising piece of the puzzle is the Creedmoor campus in eastern Queens. Underutilized for decades, this 50+ acre site of state-owned land could be a game changer toward making progress on housing creation, school overcrowding and open space.

This land, on a superblock sandwiched between Union Turnpike and Hillside Avenue, is part of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, which has provided services to patients with mental illness for over a century. In the 1950s, Creedmoor housed upwards of 7,000 patients. But deinstitutionalization and medical advances led to a significant decrease in Creedmoor’s inpatient population, resulting in a dramatic reduction of the hospital’s active footprint on the site.

While some portions of the campus have been sold off, over 50 acres — occupied by 20 decaying, mostly vacant buildings — remain in public hands. Where others may see blight and emptiness, we see the boundless potential to envision a bright future for this land and the communities it serves.

The redevelopment of Creedmoor has the potential to be a driving force for comprehensive reinvestment across eastern Queens, fueling vital initiatives such as economic development, job creation, mass transit improvements and infrastructure upgrades. This land represents opportunities for affordable housing, new school construction, neighborhood retail, open spaces, performance venues and much more. This can be a transformative opportunity for the entire community and can make a meaningful impact on the lives of its residents and businesses.

The opportunities presented by the Creedmoor site are vast, but it is crucial that any redevelopment is driven by the input and participation of the community. The voices of residents from Bellerose, Queens Village and surrounding neighborhoods must be heard loud and clear by incorporating their ideas and addressing their concerns. In doing so, we can ensure that any potential plan for revitalizing the Creedmoor site is a true reflection of the community’s needs and aspirations.

This is why our respective offices have partnered to put together a series of community visioning workshops over the next few weeks, beginning this Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. at P.S./I.S. 208, to hear from eastern Queens residents about what they want to see flower from this plot of promise. These workshops will provide an opportunity for residents of eastern Queens to share their ideas and visions for the potential development of the Creedmoor site and turn it into a vibrant and thriving community for all. For information about future workshops, visit creedmoor.nyc.

Creedmoor’s redevelopment can be a linchpin for strengthening eastern Queens. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to forge a better Queens for ourselves and for future generations. Let’s make the most of it.

Hope Knight is president of Empire State Development and Donovan Richards is borough president of Queens.