Eastern Queens residents were given the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas for the future redevelopment of the 55-acre Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus in Queens Village during the first community visioning session held in the gymnasium at I.S./P.S. 208 in Glen Oaks on Thursday, Feb. 2.
Empire State Development (ESD), New York’s statewide economic development agency, is leading the effort in partnership with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. The Metropolitan Urban Design (MUD) Workshop will assist ESD with the visioning session workshops.
Between 80 to 100 residents attended the community visioning session, held at I.S./P.S. 208 located at 74-30 Commonwealth Blvd., where they listened to presentation from ESD explaining the history, site overview and project objectives for Creedmoor campus, which is state-owned land.
Afterward, residents wrote on sticky notes what they would like to see built on the campus.
The goal, according to ESD, is to work with the communities around Creedmoor to develop a “Master Plan,” that will serve as the framework that guides how New York state will redevelop areas of the campus.
According to Doug McPherson, senior director of real estate and planning at ESD, the Creedmoor campus was used as a firing range for the National Rifle Association and the New York National Guard. It then became a center for psychiatric patients in the 1910s. At its peak, the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center has treated over 7,000 patients. In the 1960s, the city began to deinstitutionalize its facilities. Today, it houses a small inpatient and outpatient psychiatric facility, where programs are run by the NYS Office of Mental Health and the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
“We recognize that there are a lot of existing community assets and institutions and resources in the areas around Creedmoor, and we are going to be thinking about how the redevelopment of Creedmoor will add to its ecosystem and complement its ecosystem,” McPherson said.
In order to ensure that the Creedmoor master plan reflects the needs and desires of the community, ESD will collect community members’ input residing in the neighborhoods of Bellerose, Queens Village, Hollis Hills, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, Oakland Gardens, Bellerose Manor and all surrounding communities near the area.
During the session, Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village Co-op, spoke on behalf of 14 civic associations that created their own list of goals and community needs regarding the future use of the Creedmoor property during a meeting held on Jan. 12.
“We have to make sure that community concerns are taken seriously,” Friedrich said. “We are not NIMBY — which means ‘not in my backyard.’ We would like to see some development there, but that development has to be consistent with the surrounding communities and has to help the surrounding communities. Above all, before everything else is done, they’re going to have to remediate the toxic environment in the ground that exists on the campus.”
The civics are also requesting adequate public transit, adequate parking consistent with uses, low- to medium-density scale of development to fit the character of the neighborhoods, and the utilization of possible existing building exteriors and possible interiors. Community members said there is a need for housing, specifically for seniors, veterans, young adults and families.
“The houses are built where you have a three-bedroom upstairs and kitchen and living area downstairs, and as people get older, it’s difficult for them to climb the stairs,” said Mo Ishmael, president of the Queens Village Civic Association, who has been living in the neighborhood for 38 years. “I would love to see those people have access to senior housing because there are a lot of seniors in the surrounding neighborhood.”
Ishmael said he hopes that ESD are sincere in their efforts and listens to the community.
“With the UBS Arena that is what the state wanted and it was dumped on us. There’s a lot of traffic congestion created by the facility — the roads around it weren’t built for traffic and it’s affecting Queens Village,” Ishmael said.
John Ray, of the Bellerose Commonwealth Civic Association, who has been living in the neighborhood for 70 years, said he just wants to make sure the neighborhood doesn’t have a North Shore Towers built on the Creedmoor site.
“I want them to keep two- and one-family homes, senior housing and smaller apartments for families and lots of available parking,” Ray said. “A few years ago, they were going to build senior housing with no parking. Everyone figures that seniors don’t drive, but seniors do drive to get to a doctor’s appointment in Nassau County or somewhere else. We just don’t want a congested area and we want to keep it that way.”
In their list of objections, the civics made it clear that they don’t want prisons, juvenile centers, homeless shelters, buildings constructed above four stories, and big-box retail stores in the area.
While the Feb. 2 visioning process began with an in-person meeting at P.S./I.S. 208, there will be a virtual meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7, and other in-person events already scheduled throughout the month. The community events and workshops will continue into July in order to develop the “master plan” for what to do with the campus.
According to ESD, the agency will study transit access and the environmental impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods, and issue requests for proposals to development firms and community organizations to make the master plan a reality in the coming years. The agency will also conduct studies on the existing site and buildings to understand any needed infrastructure upgrades and environmental remediation.
The borough president is urging community members to bring their neighbors to the sessions.
“We want you to be here from the beginning to the end, and as we go through this process, we’ll end up with a stakeholders task force,” Richards said. “Let’s make sure eastern Queens is getting the investments that it rightfully deserves. As taxpayers and folks that contributed to our city and borough, it’s time to have these conversations.”
ESD is inviting community members to attend upcoming workshops, fill out the digital survey and sign up for the Creedmoor Community Master Plan mailing list to receive updates. For any questions, contact [email protected].