2006-09-20 / Features

NYHQ To Undergo Major Expansion

RICHARD GENTILVISO

Amajor expansion of New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ), including

an underground two-level

parking structure for 372 cars, was overwhelmingly approved by Community Board 7 last week amid speculation that some Queens hospitals will be forced to close at the end of the year.

"It's really very premature to talk about anything the Berger Commission will do," said NYHQ President Steve Mills in response to a question about whether Flushing Hospital would remain in operation at the September Board 7 meeting.

Plans for a new five-story west wing on the main NYHQ campus at Main Street and Booth Memorial Avenue and a parking structure to be built on hospital property along 141st Street south of Booth Memorial Avenue were unveiled by Perkins Eastman, architects for the $200 million project.

"The hospital needs to modernize, needs to grow and wants to serve the community in a modern way," Frank Gunther of Perkins Eastman said.

"I strongly urge the board to vote against the whole project," said Maurice Pinchon, president of the Coalition to Protect Queensborough Hill.

NYHQ will accomplish the expansion through a rezoning of the main campus from R4 to R6 and a special permit to locate the parking away from the main campus. Aprevious plan for a three-and-a-half-story parking garage and a pedestrian bridge will be withdrawn.

Board 7 Zoning Committee Chairperson Chuck Apelian said NYHQ has also agreed to accept designation as a large-scale community facility, a stipulation that approves only the plans presented with the rezoning. "Any other [future] change[s] necessitates a full review by the community board," Apelian said.

In December, 2005, NYHQ reached an agreement with the city Department of Parks to use nearby Kissena Corridor Park as a parking lot, sparking a sharp reaction from the community at the January 2006 Board 7 meeting.

"Councilmember [John] Liu got a letter from NYHQ President Steve Mills [saying] that they would get out of Kissena [Corridor] Park as soon as they could," said Apelian. NYHQ has also agreed not to place any trailers in the park during construction, he said.

Liu, speaking in favor of the expansion, acknowledged the lost parkland but also said it was a temporary measure without which "There would be a parking nightmare".

"Steve Mills, CEO of NYHQ, has promised they will vacate and restore the parkland as soon as the parking garage is built," Liu said, adding the volunteer conservancy of Kissena Corridor Park drafted the language for the letter, not NYHQ.

Residents said the new parking garage on 141st Street will add to already high levels of traffic and pollution in the area. "There needs to be a professional study done," said Ray DiPaoli.

The parking structure, on a site of four private homes NYHQ has acquired that will be torn down, will have its entrance at grade level and go down two levels below. In its approval, the board has asked for several traffic mitigations to be considered by the city Department of Transportation (DOT), along with two others that have already been approved by DOT.

"I feel very badly for the people on that

In December, 2005, NYHQ reached an agreement with the city Department of Parks to use nearby Kissena Corridor Park as a parking lot, sparking a sharp reaction from the community at the January 2006 Board 7 meeting.

block," said Liu, acknowledging the garage is in the middle of single-family homes. However, Liu said the expansion was, overall, good for the community. "For a long time it's been known that we need more hospital beds in this area," he said. "At the same time, there also has to be an explicit recognition of the burden placed on the immediate surrounding area."

The new west wing expansion will have 80 new hospital beds, a new ambulatory surgical suite with 10 operating rooms, a new cardiac intervention unit and endoscopy suite and new entrance, lobby, and driveway on Main Street. "This will be a handsome addition to the hospital," said Gunther.

Formed by Governor George Pataki last year to create a plan to overhaul hospitals, the New York State Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century is scheduled to begin a preliminary review this week of hospitals and nursing homes recommended for closure. The commission, chaired by Stephen Berger, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has held 19 public hearings, collected testimony, and held meetings with over 230 hospitals in the state. The commission is facing a December 1 deadline for its final report.

See page 14 for a related story on New York Hospital Queens.

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