Peninsula trustee keeps children’s program ‘in consideration’


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

When one door closes, another one opens.

At least that’s what the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center is hoping for.

According to Dr. Peter Nelson, the health center’s CEO, the ill-fated future of Peninsula Hospital may mean security for the center and its children’s day treatment program.

Peninsula has housed the center and its programs for over 10 years. But last November, hospital officials said the center had three months to vacate the premises in order for the hospital to expand emergency room services in its stead.

The move left program officials and its 15 current students — most who suffer from profound behavioral and emotional difficulties — frantically scrambling for a new home.

The children’s day treatment program was later granted a six-month extension period in December, pushing the move-out date to June 30. But now that officials plan to pull the plug on the floundering Far Rockaway facility, Nelson said the court-appointed trustee — Lori Lapin Jones — may allow the health center to remain in its current building on Beach Channel Drive, which he said would put a halt to expedited efforts to secure a new location.

“I’m delighted that the worm has turned,” said Nelson, who said he recently met with the trustee to discuss the fate of the center. “The trustee, Ms. Jones, is very sensitive to the issues that relate to the children and the program that we’re providing. She said she would do everything that was within her power to see that we were kept in consideration for staying there. She could not make any guarantees, of course, but she said she would certainly make our issues known to the parties that were going to be the final solution for Peninsula Hospital. And she said she would hope that those parties would include us in terms of staying at the site so the children can have a continuing home for the program.”

Nelson said he also spoke with 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials, who represent the hospital’s workers and who Nelson foresees will be “the largest force in the decision-making process.”

“They spoke with the same kind of assurance,” Nelson said. “I feel like, at this point, our issue is being heard, and we just need to wait and see how things play out. Everybody is concerned about the children’s day treatment program, but there is no final say as to who would be purchasing the place, what they would be doing with it and so on. There are no guarantees.”

According to Kevin Finnegan, 1199’s political director, the union hopes the health center will be able to stay at the site.

“We hope to grow with them. That’s our plan — to preserve the stuff that’s there now and expand into the Rockaways. We love the Addabbo Health Center,” he said. “We’re pushing for the most robust ambulatory center that the Department of Health is willing to fund.”

While union officials continue to explore alternative options for the repurposing of the site, Nelson said he has put three options on the table. He said he was willing to sign a short-term lease, which would ensure the program another couple of years, to secure a long-term lease, which would allow the program to stay at its current site for 15 more years or to purchase the building.

“I’m fairly confident we’ll be part of the conversation with whoever might be interested at this point in terms of coming up with a solution,” Nelson said. “We’re still kind of the flea on the elephant’s rear end. We just don’t have the big resources to come in and solve people’s problems. We’re making a limited proposal, and anything is fine with me. I’m very flexible. My main bottom line is I want to have a place for the program. That would be a big step forward for us.”

Nelson said he expects solutions to “start crystalizing” within the next two weeks, but he’s crossing his fingers in the interim.

“It’s going to be soon,” he said.

As of now, the program and its students are still expected to move out by the end of June.