Tag Archives: Hillcrest Estates Civic Association

Star of Queens: Jackie Forrestal, Hillcrest Estates Civic Association


| editorial@queenscourier.com

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COMMUNITY SERVICE: Jackie Forrestal has been active in the Queens community for years. She is a board member of the Central Queens Historical Association. She also served on the St. Joseph’s Advisory Board until the facility closed in 2004.

Forrestal is the corresponding secretary for the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, while her husband Kevin is president.

BACKGROUND: A lifelong resident of Queens, Forrestal graduated from Martin Van Buren High School and studied at Queens College.

For decades, Forrestal and her husband have volunteered their time and efforts to help countless organizations.

Last year, she was honored by the Queens Civic Congress with the Queens Civic Award for Outstanding Community Service.

She has also been the recipient of a Woman of Distinction Award from Community Board 8 and was one of 29 women to receive the City Council’s Pacesetter Award in 2006.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Forrestal remembers the day she and her husband moved to Hillcrest Estates.

“In 1974, we moved into our first home on 164th Place as homeowners and were invited by the neighbors to square dance,” she said.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Honestly, my biggest challenge has to be saving Jamaica High School from closure,” she said. “This historic and renowned school should not be closed. The phase-out of Jamaica High School is incredibly unjust and unfair to students.”

INSPIRATION: Out of her love for the Queens community, Forrestal has spent decades fighting to preserve programs and institutions to improve the standard of living for residents.

“I love people and I find serving them to be very satisfying and fulfilling,” she said. “Hillcrest Estates is a very special place, my civic work is a nurturing pastime.”

BY LUKE TABET

 

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Hillcrest residents fear proposed housing unit will endanger children


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

An overwhelming fear of the unknown is keeping Hillcrest residents from embracing a proposed housing unit set to lodge mental and chronic health patients in their community.

“There are too many people, too many variables and too many things that can go wrong,” said Ed Leahy of the Hillcrest Estate Civic Association.

A coalition of civic leaders and elected officials said they would roadblock Queens Hospital Center’s (QHC) bid to develop a deteriorated 10-story building on the hospital’s campus into affordable housing for low-income individuals and QHC patients with psychiatric diagnoses or chronic illnesses, including AIDS.

QHC is in talks with Comunilife, a nonprofit human services agency, to build 251 units in the “T-Building” at 82-68 164th Street, The Courier first reported last December.

But civic leaders said the “questionable population” could put children at nearby schools in danger.

“I empathize with mental illness and AIDS patients. I do. But you must understand that my job is the safety of those little children,” said Judy Henry, principal of Queens Gateway to Health Sciences Secondary School.

Residents cited the December 14, 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut as a cause for concern. The teen who massacred 26 children and adults was reportedly diagnosed as mentally ill.

“An ‘I told you so’ will never bring back a child after an incident has occurred,” said Maria DeInnocentiis, chair of the Utopia Estates Civic Association.

QHC and Comunilife officials said only “appropriate” residents would be picked to live in the development. Registered sex offenders and those who exhibit violent behavior would be screened out. Residents would also be assigned caseworkers and monitored all day, they said.

“The individuals who would be residing in the apartments that we’re proposing are the very same individuals who are coming every day already on the campus,” said LaRay Brown, senior vice president of corporate planning for the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC).

Casandra Cox, a Bronx Comunilife resident diagnosed with major depression and anxiety, said she fears residents are blinded by a stigma against the mentally ill.

“I lost everything. Comunilife has been a lifesaver for me,” said Cox, 69. “People don’t understand. They all think what happened in Connecticut is going to happen here. We’re not a threat to the community.”

 

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Community concerned over Queens Hospital Center proposal


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Civic groups in Hillcrest are worried that a proposed mixed housing unit set to lodge individuals with chronic conditions will draw a “questionable population” next door.

Queens Hospital Center (QHC) is in talks with Comunilife, a nonprofit human services agency, to develop a deteriorated 10-story building on the hospital’s campus into 251 units of affordable, permanent supportive housing for individuals with chronic physical and mental health conditions, The Courier has learned.

Residency at the 82-68 164th Street site in Jamaica, called the “T-Building,” would be coupled with access to supportive health care services, including case workers, a hospital executive said. Apartment preference would be given to patients of Queens and Elmhurst Hospital Centers suffering from ailments including diabetes and chronic heart failure.

“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,” said Julius Wool, QHC’s executive director. “We look forward to being able to expand access to affordable housing options to Queens residents.”

QHC officials said it was too early to specify those “special needs,” but local civic associations said they expect masses of homeless people, the mentally ill, and individuals with HIV or AIDS, based on Comunilife’s mission statement to help that particular population.

“The overwhelming feeling is of great concern, if not rejection, of any consideration of this type of facility,” said Kevin Forrestal, president of the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association and area chair of Community Board 8. “We’re talking about a rather large number of people, hundreds, who are at risk, with mental issues.”

Forrestal said the hesitation stems from a “fear of crime or other offenses” the residents could potentially commit.

“Presumably, of most folks who have HIV, many, if not most, have had a history of drug abuse,” he said.

Bob Trabold, president of the Hillcrest-Jamaica Hill Neighborhood Association, shared the same sentiment, saying the project could be “threatening” to the neighborhood.

“There’s no supervision once residents leave the building,” he said. “What the hospital wants and what the neighborhood thinks is best may not be in harmony.”

The development’s close proximity to a nearby youth center and area high schools is reason for concern, too, according to the community leaders.

Wool said the approximate 230,000 square–foot dwelling would be for people with and without chronic illnesses and would help reduce emergency room use and hospital readmissions.

Costs have not yet been determined since the project is still in its preliminary stage, officials said, but funding for the anticipated multimillion dollar venture is expected to be secured early 2013.