Far Rockaway leaders urge Mayor to fund trauma facility for isolated peninsula

far rockaway
Photo courtesy of the NYC Council

Community leaders and members of the Far Rockaway Trauma and Healthcare Access Task Force rallied at the Rockaway Community Justice Center at Mott Avenue across the site where NYPD Detective Jonathan Diller was fatally shot on March 25.

At the rally on Tuesday, June 11, they called on Mayor Eric Adams to include funding for a Level 1 or 2 trauma facility in the growing neighborhood in his upcoming budget.

Photo courtesy of the NYC Council

Queens currently has only three trauma centers serving adults, and the closest facility to Far Rockaway is nearly 10 miles away at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. The City Council called on the Adams administration to fully fund a trauma facility in their preliminary budget in April, but there has been little sign of movement on the issue, according to Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, who released a new report and cited the Diller tragedy along with the fatal shooting of a local schoolboy in June 2021, to drive home the need for such a facility in the geographically isolated community.

Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers called on the Adams administration to include funding for a trauma facility in Far Rockaway as part of his upcoming budget. Photo courtesy of the NYC Council

“The untimely murder of 10-year-old Justin Wallace and, more recently, Detective Diller were unfortunate reminders of how much of a health desert the peninsula is, and establishing a level 1 or level 2 trauma facility will help ensure when someone has a trauma experience in Rockaway, they have a fighting chance of survival,” Brooks-Powers said. “The release of the Far Rockaway Trauma and Healthcare Taskforce Report will be a guiding light for what we hope will be a stronger, healthier Rockaway Peninsula.”

Brooks-Powers co-chairs the task force along with Dr. Mitchell Katz, the President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, who stood alongside her at the rally.

NYC Health + Hospitals CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz co-chairs the Far Rockaway Trauma and Healthcare Access Task Force. Photo courtesy of the NYC Council

“Patients who experience a serious trauma, like a gunshot wound or a car accident, need to get to a trauma center as soon as possible,” he said. “I thank my fellow Co-Chair, Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, for her leadership and compassion over the past year as we heard from key stakeholders across the Rockaways that they need a trauma center.”

Since Peninsula Hospital closed in 2012, the Rockaways has had just one hospital, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, which lacks the certification to treat the most severe traumatic injuries.

“Throughout my time in public service, I have been steadfast in my belief that we must greatly expand access to high-quality health care in Far Rockaway — a community that has generationally experienced massive disparities in health outcomes and sufficient healthcare coverage,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “To that end, I’m proud to support efforts to secure a trauma center for Far Rockaway as we work to further expand the peninsula’s network of state-of-the-art emergency healthcare providers. Neighborhood families deserve nothing less.”

Photo courtesy of the NYC Council

This significant gap in healthcare access has resulted in numerous preventable deaths and has severely impacted the overall quality of life for residents.

“For far too long, the Rockaway peninsula has been medically underserved,” said New York City Council Member Joann Ariola. “Our population grows each and every year, but still, the closest trauma hospital is miles away in Jamaica. In situations where every second counts, the trip over two bridges and into the mainland can be fatal. That’s why we need a trauma hospital here – to cater to our growing population and ensure that our residents have the best medical care possible should a tragedy strike.”

Previous Data released by the task force highlighted the urgent need for a trauma center, with over 15,000 EMS calls and 14,000 hospital transports originating in the Rockaways, including 700 trauma-related calls, between October 2021 and September 2022.

“It’s time for Rockaway to get its fair share! With over 10,000 new residents set to move in across the Peninsula, we have not seen an equitable amount of resources invested in our infrastructure to match this level of development,” said New York State Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer-Amato. “We have the support of our community, and now it’s time for the Mayor to help us save lives in Rockaway.”

Council Member Lynn Schulman, Chair of the Health Committee, delivered remarks to the crowd.

“For too long, the people of Southeast Queens have been without adequate healthcare when it comes to emergencies,” Schulman said. “Anyone who has a traumatic injury or disease in Southeast Queens is more likely to have a negative outcome. That is why a trauma center is so vitally needed in this part of the City and why I support the development of the Far Rockaway Trauma Center proposed by Council Member Brooks-Powers.”

Several community leaders expressed their support for the task force and urged the Adams administration to fund the desperately needed trauma center.

“For years, we’ve had drownings, fatal car accidents, gun violence and the like, with very little emergency services to accommodate these types of trauma. Residents and visitors deserve access to a trauma center as it has been proven time and time again that it’s much needed. More lives can be saved and proper treatment can be given to sustain life,” Edgemere Community Civic Association President Sonia Moise said.” With all of the new development and future development on the horizon, the Rockaway Peninsula will be left vulnerable, as it’s always been. If not now, when? How many lives must we lose in order to have what we deserve as a community?”

As budget negotiations continue, Brooks-Powers is encouraging her constituents to make their voices heard by signing an online petition at bit.ly/RockawayTraumaCenter asking the Mayor to fund a trauma center in Far Rockaway.

“The need is critical for a Trauma Hospital in Far Rockaway; the summer is upon us, and warmer weather, unfortunately, brings drownings and other critical life-saving emergencies that only a Level 1 – Trauma Center is equipped to address on this geographically isolated peninsula,” Edgemere Alliance President Jacqueline Rogers said. “We need everyone to stand with us.”