QHC Proposal Met With Skepticism
By NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
Community associations have expressed concern over a proposed housing development in the Queens Hospital Center, which would cater to patients with mental and physical illnesses.
The proposal, set forth by the QHC and Comunlife, a nonprofit health and housing service provider, would transform the hospital's vacant 'T-Building,' located at 82-61 Parsons Blvd. in Jamaica, into 175 affordable studio apartments accommodating one to two patients terminating treatment in the QHC. Additionally, 76 one, two or three bedroom units would be provided to veterans and their families.
According to Olga Jobe, a spokesperson for Comunilife, QHC is in active discussions with the nonprofit regarding their interest in using the T-Building of the hospital, but nothing has been approved by the state yet.
"Queens Hospital Center hopes to lease the building to Comunilife," Jobe said in an email. "Patients of Queens and Elmhurst hospitals, the two HHC public hospitals in the Borough, would have preference for apartments in the building, and it is our hope to ensure the reuse of this building for Borough residents who have special needs, who have low incomes or who are veterans.
"Affordable, stable and quality housing with supportive services can help individuals with chronic conditions to live more independently, facilitates access to appropriate health care services, and also helps to reduce emergency room use and hospital readmissions," Jobe added.
Although QHC officials have not been able to specify what types of patients the T-Building would potentially be housing, a statement released by Community Board 8 revealed "the T-Building would be used for housing individuals living with mental illnesses and/or HIV/AIDS."
Comunilife also did not specify what kind of patients would be housed in the building, but according to their website, their mission statement is to "improve the quality of life and create a healthier tomorrow for children, adolescents, adults, families and seniors living with mental illness and/or HIV/AIDS in New York City's underserved, diverse communities."
"This building would house people with mental problems, problems with drugs and AIDS," said Robert Trabold, director of the Hillcrest-Jamaica Hills Neighborhood Association. "That's an awful amount of people in a small area that have serious problems and this is in a very small residential neighborhood. It's not safe, there really isn't any supervision."
Trabold also expressed concern that the permanent housing complex would be adjacent to two schools.
"The Math Science High School is right there and across the street is the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parochial School. Now this is a problem because we just had the Newtown, Connecticut event and so this is a very sensitive issue," Trabold argued. "Comunilife has a specific type of residents, so the real question is can the hospital answer to all these patients?"
Although members of Community Board 8 have not yet taken a stance on the proposed housing, the group has similarly expressed some of its concerns.
According to a statement from Marie Adam-Ovide, district manager of CB8, a presentation was made to the executive board.
"They [said] they will have security and case workers, a staff of 16-20. They claimed that the change in use can be done right. They are waiting to be funded," Adam-Ovide said in a statement.
Ovide added that CB8 raised questions about the facility's security, whether there would be a community advisory board and why the building would not instead be used for additional hospital beds.
Community leaders have since voiced their concerns to State Senator Tony Avella (D-Bayside) who said he is currently in the process of scheduling a meeting with the administration at the QHC to discuss their plans for the particular site.
"I believe that the community should be involved in the process because any proposal with have a profound effect on the quality of life for the surrounding neighborhood," Avella said in a statement.
Reach Reporter Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or nkozikowska@ queenspress.com