Tag Archives: Department of Health

City announces latest procedure for ensuring pre-K sites meet health and safety standards

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



City officials announced the latest steps to ensure that every “Pre-K for All” site meets the highest health and safety standards. As of Aug. 13, there are zero unresolved health violations in the most serious category at any Pre-K for All site.

All new pre-K sites have been subject to a rigorous approval process and inspection by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Buildings and Fire Department. Returning sites receive annual inspections, with follow-up inspections if violations are discovered. The Department of Education also conducts walk-through inspections of pre-K sites in the lead up to the first day of school to check for education preparedness as well as health and safety concerns.

In order to allow for such rigorous inspection, safety and quality control were dedicated in this year’s adopted budget.  The Health Department, Fire Department, Department of Design and Construction, the Department of Buildings and the Department of Education were collectively able to bolster their pre-K-dedicated staff to over 400 inspectors.

“The safety and security of our students is always our top priority and we’ve left no stone unturned in ensuring that every pre-K site is ready for the first day of school – both in its ability to give our 4-year-olds the high-quality educational foundation they need to thrive in kindergarten and beyond, and in meeting our high safety and health standards,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.


City to deploy ‘shelter repair squad’ to fix homeless shelter issues

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Five city agencies are coming together to investigate and solve the issues faced at over 500 homeless shelters throughout the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that the city will deploying hundreds of “special SWAT teams” — made up of employees from the FDNY, Department of Buildings, Department of Homeless Services, Department of Health and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development — to accelerate the process of repairs at homeless shelters all over New York City.

“These SWAT teams are necessary because we aren’t dealing with a problem that just started in the last year or two, we’re dealing with a problem that is decades old and has gotten worse for several reasons,” de Blasio said. “This city has seen a homelessness crisis that in the last decade went from a very troubling level to an absolutely unacceptable level.”

According to the mayor, 56,000 people are currently living in shelters, and although that number is down from 59,000 people a few months ago, there is still much more to be done.

The implementation of the inter-agency shelter repair squad comes after de Blasio received a report from the Department of Investigation two months ago that put forth the unhealthy conditions at the city shelters. The DOI found 25 shelters that required immediate attention, and those have since had almost all violations addressed.

One of those shelters included the Corona Family Residence, where de Blasio made the announcement Monday afternoon. This facility had violations such as smoke detector problems and rodent infestations.

The squads will go out to individual shelters, identify the problems and solutions to them, then reach out to various departments and agencies that could find the resources to correct the conditions. Typical violations — such as broken or missing smoke detectors — will be expected to be fixed within a seven-day period after being identified. Some of the more complicated capital repairs will begin in about 30 days with a plan of completion within the calendar year.

Along with the squad, there will also be an accountability system put into place where members of the public will be able to track the city’s progress through online scorecards.

“Every effort is being made to reduce the number of health and safety violations within DHS shelters, and the creation of the shelter repair squad will provide immeasurable support to us in these efforts,” DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor said. “This engagement is truly reflective of our city’s collective responsibility, serving our most vulnerable New Yorkers. These measures will indeed help DHS to overcome the many years of neglect that our city shelter system has been subjected to.”

Last week, de Blasio also announced that in the city’s 2016 $78.3 billion budget $100 million will go toward homeless prevention and assistance, including rental support, anti-eviction and legal services, and more. The budget will also include $4.7 million to expand the number of shelter beds for runaway and homeless youth by another 100, while enhancing mental health services.

For Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who attended the Monday announcement, the issues residents have to live with at these homeless shelters hit close to his heart because his family once lived in a shelter. Van Bramer said that many of the issues the families are facing are the same as those his family faced years ago.

“Every family that comes to [a] shelter is in a state of crisis in one way or another, but the fact that they found shelter means that they are on the path to recovery, like my family. So going to [a] shelter is the first step, in many cases, to making it out of [the] shelter,” Van Bramer said. “But when you get to that shelter, it should be a place where any New Yorker could live because it’s about dignity and it’s about knowing that you matter, your lives matter, your children matter.”


Real estate roundup: Destruction of Waldheim, Jackson Heights Food Court shut down for mice

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Destruction of what’s left of Waldheim continues

“Another Waldheim gem is quickly disappearing. According to the city’s website, 143-01 Cherry Avenue dates back to 1910.” Read more [Queens Crap]

Jackson Heights Food Court Closed for Mice, Roaches

“The Jackson Heights Food Court, which sells buffet-style food and an array of grocery items, has been shuttered by the Department of Health for operating without a permit and for having mice, roaches and fruit flies, according to the city.” Read more [DNAinfo]

Work moving forward at 27-07 43rd Avenue despite new permits

“Originally filed as a nine-story residential build, the new permits in September called for 108 hotel rooms and nearly 50,000 square feet commercial space. While ‘no decision’ has been made on what the final product will be, that hasn’t stopped construction on the lot. Crews seem to be wrapping up excavation and have moved on to laying the foundation, as seen below.” Read more [The Court Square Blog] 

Queens small businesses burdened by fines, says de Blasio

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's Flickr

Queens small businesses are suffering because of excessive fines from city agencies, while Manhattan is left practically untouched, according to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

Fine revenue from the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and Department of Health (DOH) on Queens businesses has risen by $54 million between fiscal years 2002 and 2012, de Blasio said at a Tuesday, February 25 press conference. The public advocate alleged the city had continued to inconsistently fine business in the outer boroughs, particularly Queens, to drive revenue for the city in what he called “shocking, clear patterns.” It was from disproportionate fines on small businesses, he said, that the city had continued to make money as part of budgetary plans.

“It’s time to stop balancing the city budget on the backs of small business,” he said.

The announcement is part of a push by the public advocate’s office to show the discrepancy between how Manhattan businesses were treated in comparison to other areas of the city.

Richmond Hill, where de Blasio delivered his address, was one of the hardest hit areas in the city, he said. Because many of these business owners work long hours, and more than the traditional five days, going to court and fighting fines is nearly impossible for them.

Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council, said the city had consistently picked on the immigrant communities.

Andy Jarbandhn, a business owner on Liberty Avenue, said he had gotten hammered with fines from DCA on matters he had never been informed of. Jarbandhn said he had racked up thousands of dollars in fines because of issues he tried to remedy — only to be hit with a follow-up fine.

“It seems we’re being led down a dark alley where we have no idea what the rules are,” he said.

The data provided by de Blasio’s office shows a major spike in fine revenue beginning with the economic downturn from 2007 to 2008. The public advocate said these “ill-gotten gains” were to balance the city budget at the expense of uninformed business owners.



More West Nile spraying in Queens this week

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Courtesy of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

For the fifth time this summer, the city will be spraying for West Nile virus in Queens this week.

The Department Health and Mental Hygiene announced they will spray larvicide in three Queens neighborhoods beginning today.

There has been one confirmed case of West Nile in the city this year — a Staten Island man — after 11 were diagnosed with the virus a year ago.

More than 40 pools of standing water have tested positive for the virus in Queens.

The Health Department has already begun spraying parts of Alley Pond Park, College Point and Edgemere. The application of the larvicide will last until 7 p.m. tonight. Larvicide will be applied to the areas again between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.

The targeted spots are the marsh areas inside Alley Pond Park, the abandoned Flushing airport bounded by the Whitestone Expressway to the east, 20th Avenue to the north, 130th Avenue and Ulmer Street to the west and Ulmer Street and 28th Street to the south and Edgemere Park bounded by Norton Basin to the east, Mott Point to the north, Grass Hassock Channel to the west and Beach 65th Street, De Costa Avenue and Almeda Avenue to the south.

The pesticide being used, Anvil 10 + 10, poses no health risks when used properly, but the Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

• Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. People with asthma or other respiratory conditions are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.

• Air conditioners may remain on, however, if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.

• Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using again.

• Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

Health commish leaves meeting amid ‘state of emergency;’ offers for Peninsula still on the table

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Former Peninsula Hospital employees, elected officials and residents had only one hour to convince Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to consider the needs of the community before the state’s top health official silently slinked out of the four-hour meeting.

“That’s disrespectful,” said Mary Kampa, 52, a former nurse at Peninsula.

More than 200 people packed the public forum, held on May 10 by the State Department of Health (DOH) at Knights of Columbus Hall, to plead with the DOH to address the “state of emergency” in the area and to relieve the health crisis caused after Peninsula was shuttered last month.

“The Rockaway residents are scared and they are angry,” said Joan Sommermeyer, a labor representative for the New York State Nurses Association.

Resident Bernie Feuer said he fears the approaching beach season at the Rockaways, which sees close to 10,000 visitors each week during the summer. Some residents said the potential drownings, boardwalk injuries and heat wave cases would be too much for St. John’s Episcopal to handle.

“With St. John’s on diversion so often due to the closing of Peninsula Hospital, many of these patients will not make it. They will have to be transferred to facilities off the peninsula. This tragic eventuality is totally inhumane, unacceptable and avoidable,” Kampa said.

St. John’s is now the only hospital on the peninsula, serving more than 100,000 residents. According to a spokesperson, the hospital’s emergency services were briefly diverted last week, but the only other time services were temporarily delayed was for an hour on the day Peninsula permanently closed.

Since Peninsula’s closure, St. John’s has experienced a 35 percent increase in patient visits to its emergency department, while its inpatient volume has increased approximately 11 percent and its regular occupancy rates have risen by 85 percent, the spokesperson said.

Shah directly addressed the sometimes raucous crowd one hour into the meeting, saying their concerns were heard “loud and clear.”

“The reality is we’ve gone far, and we have a lot of work to do. For too long, this community has not gotten what it deserves in terms of the quality of care,” Shah said moments before leaving. “I can’t say that I have all the answers. I wish there was a silver bullet, but it’s not that easy. I wish it were because then we would do it.”

The health commissioner’s sudden and quiet departure placed the burden on three deputy health officials to hear out angered residents and local leaders, who said the early hearing — scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. — was already “set for failure.”

“I’m disappointed that Commissioner Shah didn’t see fit to stay past 5 p.m. Four hours, in my opinion, is not a lot to ask for when you’re a public servant,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich. “He works for us. We don’t work for him.”

Meanwhile, Seth Guterman, president of People’s Choice Hospital — an investor which had expressed interest in saving the hospital — told the panel the company is still willing to sit down with health officials and the community to ink a deal.

“We’re here to help you if you want to do this,” Guterman said. “If there’s a win-win for the creditors, a win-win for the community and a win-win for the hospital, it should be entertained. It shouldn’t just be shut down because a trustee wanted to make money for the creditors.”

The DOH will issue a report within 60 days of the forum, addressing the public’s comments. Shah said “there is work being done as we speak” in terms of increasing primary and acute care in the area.


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Just when we thought Peninsula Hospital had gotten the life-saving CPR it needed, it seems the facility is once again flatlining.

Late last month, the hospital was barred from accepting new patients after the State Department of Health (DOH) shut down the lab. Reportedly, there was expired blood plasma and staffers handling samples were not wearing gloves.

Now, 230 employees — nurses, emergency room personnel and support staff — have been let go as a result.

And, as if that weren’t bad enough, the judge overseeing Peninsula’s Chapter 11 proceedings is ordering a trustee be appointed to handle all operations at the facility.

What is going on?

It seems that no one did their homework when it came to Revival Home Health Care, which took over the cash-strapped Peninsula from MediSys last year.

Already $60 million in debt at the time, Peninsula was seemingly “saved” by Steve Zakheim, whose wife owns Revival, but who was reportedly required by the DOH to sign an affidavit that he would steer clear of Revival’s operations.

Did anyone know this before Revival took over Peninsula? Or was the ink dry before the vetting process was complete?

And there are also concerns over a conflict of interest, since Todd Miller, former Chief Operating Officer for Revival, is now serving as Peninsula’s chief executive.

A very shrewd Zakheim reportedly included a provision that allows him to withdraw his offer if a trustee is appointed — meaning Peninsula may be forced to close after all.

We had hoped that the hospital would enter a new “chapter,” but it seems that its “revival” might be ill-fated.


Peninsula Hospital’s problems persist

| mchan@queenscourier.com


A sinking Peninsula Hospital has had to throw more than 200 workers overboard in a buoyant effort to stay afloat.

Roughly 240 hospital employees were temporarily laid off, officials said, as the embattled facility continues to struggle with bankruptcy and emergency service shut downs. The sudden terminations were instituted short-term, officials said, in order to conserve cash while the hospital is “on diversion.”

Peninsula was forced to halt its emergency care services for a period of 30 days after failed state health inspections found the hospital’s lab to be “a danger and threat” to patients on February 23.

A second state mandate also ordered the hospital to stop admitting new patients, cancel all surgeries and procedures and suspend any activities that depend upon laboratory services while a plan to transfer inpatients to other facilities was developed.

However, patients can still be treated at the hospital, so long as no blood work is required, officials said.

Peninsula officials said they are aggressively taking action and working with experts in the field to bring the lab up to par — which essentially means building a new one from the ground up, they said. Officials hope to reopen within two weeks contingent on state approval.

“It’s a big job, but we are working around the clock to get all of the necessary changes completed,” said Todd Miller, CEO of Peninsula. “All elements in the Department of Health’s survey of the lab are expected to be addressed by the hospital by week’s end. Once these initiatives are complete, the hospital is hopeful that the Department of Health will quickly lift the diversion of the hospital through a satisfactory review of our corrective action plan.”

Meanwhile, a U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy trustee has been appointed to take over all operations at the Far Rockaway facility — rendering Miller and the board of directors moot in the interim.

Attorney Howard Fensterman, who represents Peninsula, said hospital officials have consented to the court-ordered change. He said the appointment of a trustee would not be “detrimental” and would in fact help the hospital move forward in its plans to re-emerge from bankruptcy.

“The hospital needed to refocus its efforts,” he said. “The dispute regarding the appointment of a trustee was detracting from valuable time, effort and energy that needed to be allocated toward reopening and correcting the lab problems.”

While a specific trustee has not yet been chosen, Fensterman said the hospital is still on track to exit bankruptcy in approximately 60 days.


Peninsula narrowly avoided closure, now ordered to shut down

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Peninsula Hospital has temporarily halted its emergency care services after state health officials declared the hospital’s lab to be “a danger and threat” to patients.

The Department of Health (DOH) ordered the suspension of the Far Rockaway facility for a period of 30 days after it failed inspections on February 23. Patients can still be treated at the embattled facility, so long as no blood work is required, officials said.

However, a second state mandate ordered the hospital to stop admitting new patients and cancel all surgeries and procedures. The issue also forces Peninsula to suspend any activities that depend upon laboratory services while a plan to transfer inpatients to other facilities is developed.

“Putting patient safety at risk is outrageous and unacceptable,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. “Our hospitals and health care facilities must be held to the highest standard to protect the health and safety of our families.”

Liz Sulik, a spokesperson for Peninsula, said the hospital is fully cooperating with the DOH and is currently developing a plan to transfer current inpatients to alternate facilities. So far, 78 patients have been transferred, officials said, though where they were taken was not specified.

Sulik said Peninsula is “expeditiously developing a plan to remedy the laboratory deficiencies and hopes to restore full services as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, Goldfeder said he will work with colleagues and the communities of southern Queens and the Rockaways to ensure the medical and health care needs of the neighborhood are met in the interim.

Peninsula’s board of directors met during an emergency court hearing on February 27. However, hospital officials did not comment on results of the meeting in time for press.

Check with www.queenscourier.com for updates as this story develops.

Health Department Reminds New Yorkers to Stay Safe on New Year’s Eve

| tcimino@queenscourier.com

Emergency room visits for alcohol-related injuries, illness soar on New Year’s Day each year 

As New Year’s Eve celebrations in the City get underway, the Health Department reminds New Yorkers to stay safe and be aware of the potential health risks of excessive drinking. Alcohol-related emergency department visits more than double on New Year’s Day compared to what is typically observed, according to an analysis by the New York City Health Department. Peak hours of arrival at the emergency department for alcohol-related visits are between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.  This pattern is consistent across several years of data.

“As New Yorkers head out this weekend for New Year’s Eve, remember that alcohol can impair your judgment and coordination and that excessive drinking is dangerous,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “During the early hours of New Year’s Day, our hospitals see a great number of New Yorkers who suffer injuries or illnesses related to alcohol, more than any other day of the year. By taking some simple precautions like limiting your alcohol intake and planning a ride home, you can keep yourself and others safe.”

While alcohol-related emergency department visits peak in the early hours of New Year’s Day excessive drinking impacts New Yorkers year-round, particularly on weekends. Each year, alcohol kills an estimated 1,500 New Yorkers and in 2008 nearly half – 712 – of the deaths were due to alcohol-related injury or violence. Alcohol is associated with approximately 46% of homicides, 26% of deaths from accidents and poisoning, and 28% of motor vehicle-related deaths in New York City each year.

Excessive drinking is characterized by binge drinking – defined as five drinks for a man and four for a woman on one occasion – or heavy regular drinking. However, judgment, coordination, and reaction time are impaired with lower amounts of consumption. Limiting yourself to two alcoholic drinks on an occasion can greatly reduce the risk of injury or illness.

To further help keep you safe this New Year’s Eve, the Health Department and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offer the following tips:

  • Have “drink spacers” – make every other drink a non-alcoholic one, such as water. Drink seltzer with lime or lemon or water with a splash of juice for color.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Having food in your stomach allows your system to absorb alcohol more slowly.
  • Stop drinking while you’re still thinking. Excessive drinking can put you or someone else at risk for injury or violence and the consequences can be fatal.

For information about unhealthy drinking or treatment for alcohol dependence, call 311 or 800-LifeNet (800-543-3638).

*NOTE Pertaining to Figure Above: The Health Department currently tallies emergency department visits from 49 NYC hospitals accounting for 95% of annual emergency department visits in NYC. Alcohol-related emergency department visits are defined as any visit with a mention of alcohol in the chief complaint. The data do not represent all alcohol-related visits to emergency departments in NYC as data from the other 5% of hospitals is not included and some visits may not be reported as alcohol-related.

Woodside issues discussed at town hall

| nkarimi@queenscourier.com

Assemblymember Michael DenDekker explained the different issues that New York faces during a Woodside Town Hall meeting on October 26.
“Our everyday problems mean absolutely nothing to legislators that represent Rochester, Buffalo, Tonawanda and Niagara. We talk about parking, sanitation, noise and train issues, while their issues are jobs, agriculture and property taxes,” said DenDekker.
Earlier this year, DenDekker passed a bill regarding unused paper ballots. Under federal law, all paper ballots have to be kept in storage for at least two years. The Board of Elections (BOE) has to print 110 percent of voter enrollment in the district, when only six percent of voters usually show up, he noted.
“The BOE of Queens actually approached me and said, ‘If we have to keep on retaining all these unused ballots, then we’ll have to rent out warehouse space for the papers,’” DenDekker said.
The bill basically states that if a ballot has not been touched or marked by a voter, then it shouldn’t be considered a ballot. After the election, the unused ballots will be certified through the BOE and then be demolished, said DenDekker.
He also has another bill that would make all municipalities in the state – including New York City – pay $100 to motorists who are wrongly ticketed.
Senator Michael Gianaris mentioned the number of recent groping incidents, which have escalated citywide. Young men on bicycles ride around and inappropriately grab and touch women in the neighborhood.
“One thing that we’re all concerned about is that these gropers could be tomorrow’s rapists or even someone worse,” said Gianaris.
Legislation that Gianaris introduced about a month ago deals with making the groping of a child a felony requiring mandatory jail time, since it’s currently a misdemeanor.
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer then discussed the anti-graffiti hotline and program, which runs for $30,000 a year through the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce.
“Mike mentioned the groper incidents and a couple did happen in Woodside; on 55th Street and around 39th Avenue, which is why we’re having a self-defense class for young women at P.S. 11 on November 6 from 2 to 4 p.m.,” said Van Bramer.
He also allocated $125,000 for the Woodside Library to create a new teen reading room and announced P.S. 152 as the citywide champions for ballroom dancing.
Van Bramer also discussed how the city raised $42 million through the Department of Health (DOH) this past year.
“We want small businesses to make money because they are the hearts and souls of the neighborhood,” said Van Bramer.