Tag Archives: Queens Hospital Center

New T-Building housing plan revealed, includes units for homeless patients

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A development company has signed a 99-year lease with the city to turn the historic T-Building into a 205-unit apartment building that will include housing for patients at a nearby hospital, many of whom are homeless.

“These are people that literally cannot leave the hospital because there is not appropriate housing to discharge them to,” said Michael Dunn, president of Dunn Development Corp., the company that received the lease from the city.

Speaking at a meeting with Community Board 8 members on Wednesday, Dunn continued, “The idea is to serve people whose housing instability or lack of housing impacts their health.”

Dunn Development Corp. signed a 99-year lease with the city to develop the T-Building on Queens Hospital Center’s campus into 205 apartments. As part of the deal, Dunn will not destroy the old Hillcrest tuberculosis center, but the company will embark on a major $12 million renovation to turn the former medical building into apartments.

The majority of the apartments will be open to regular tenants. But 75 units will be for people who are patients at the Queens Hospital Center who are ready to transition into a more residential setting.

These 75 units will be filled with people who have been dependent on the hospital’s medical services and run up high costs. Many of these people visit the emergency room frequently or use the system’s substance abuse services.

Dunn addressed the community’s concern over this troubled group and whether or not they would be “a problem in the neighborhood.”

“I have a very strong interest,” Dunn said during the meeting. “My interests are the same as the community.”

The special needs tenants, Dunn said, will be submitted through three levels. The first two levels are administered by the hospital’s workers and social services to determine if the patients are ready to live independently. Then Dunn checks to see if they have any criminal background, including past sex offenses and drug trafficking, all of which bar applicants.

Half of the regular units will be given to people living within the borders of Community Board 8, which covers Fresh Meadows, Utopia, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Pomonok and Kew Gardens Hills.

Plans for the project are still in the early stages and no completion or start dates have been announced for construction.


Plans resume to turn historic T Building into affordable housing

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A proposal to turn the historic T Building on Queens Hospital Center’s grounds into 206 units of affordable housing has resumed after several years of missteps and controversy, according to local leaders and a politician.

As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing initiative, the city has restarted the process of turning the former tuberculosis center in Hillcrest into a residential building.

But plans to do something with the medical building go back to at least 2012 when the Queens Hospital Center worked with a nonprofit human services agency to develop the dilapidated 10-story building on its campus into 251 units of affordable housing. Community leaders and politicians like state Senator Tony Avella killed that plan, along with others.

“The new proposal is much better than the original proposal,” said Avella, who has been working closely with the community and city officials to develop plans. “Are there still things that have to be worked out? Of course. We want some more details. And we will continue to crystalize the plans.”

The city’s plans for the building are still in the early phases, and the city hasn’t publicly released any details. But, according to Avella, the new proposal addresses all of the issues raised by the community – from preserving the historic building to making sure that the community is comfortable with who the new residents will be.

During a recent Community Board 8 meeting, board members expressed concern over plans to make 75 of the apartment units into studios that will be occupied by hospital patients who are discharged and have nowhere else to live.

“It makes no sense,” said Maria Deinnocentiis, a community board member. “We said we needed affordable housing, not this. I’m worried that these homeless people will be there so close to our schools and children.”

But Avella confirmed that the city and a private consulting firm they hired, Dunn Associates, would do a rigorous background check for the hospital patients who become residents. Plans haven’t been finalized and it might be more than a year before any construction starts.

“I was the one that led the fight to kill the original proposal,” Avella said. “They learned that they have to talk to the community and that’s what they’re doing. We’re approving a general theme to work out. It’s a step in the right direction.”


Dolphin Diner opening soon in Hillcrest, replacing shuttered eatery

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The Dolphin Diner in Hillcrest is set to make a splash with its grand opening just a few weeks away.

The eatery already has its sign up and owner and veteran restaurateur John Papas told The Courier that he plans to open the establishment in the second week of September, after completing certain filings with the city.

The new diner, which is blocks away from St. John’s University’s main campus and Queens Hospital Center, will replace Cornerstone Diner in the mall where Union Turnpike and 164th Street meet.

Papas, who has previously owned diners around the city and one upstate, said he thought it was a good spot for a restaurant, and that’s why he decided to open there despite Cornerstone recently shutting its doors.

Dolphin will offer everything from seafood to steaks, and will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily from 6 a.m. to midnight. The new establishment will be able to seat up to 125 people, Papas said.

The diner is still hiring employees for positions, and expects to have more than 20 workers when it opens.


Construction begins for new $19M EMS station at Queens Hospital Center

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Dean/Wolf Architects

Work on the new Hillcrest FDNY Emergency Medical Services (EMS) station has ignited.

Construction recently began on the new station, which will be located on the Queens Hospital Center campus on Goethals Avenue, after the site’s permits were approved.

The center is expected to cost $19 million and will be the largest EMS station in Queens at 13,000 square feet. Dean/Wolf Architects is working on the project, which will house training facilities, blood-borne pathogen decontamination areas, and parking spaces.

The new building will be two stories, made of glass, metal and concrete. It will house five ambulances, staff offices and equipment storage and lockers for about 100 EMS personnel.

The station will serve neighborhoods as far north as Whitestone and as far south as Howard Beach.

In a ground-breaking ceremony for the project in December, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano praised the new center, citing the growing need for medical services.

“As call volume for medical emergencies has continued to grow, including a record-setting 1.3 million calls in 2012, the department has worked to increase the number of our EMS stations in an effort to further lower response times and position resources where they are most needed,” Cassano said.



EXCLUSIVE: Officials tweak contentious T Building plan

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A controversial plan to turn the historic T Building into housing for mental and chronic health patients has slightly changed, but it is still on the table, The Courier has learned.

In late 2012, Queens Hospital Center (QHC) was in talks with Comunilife, a nonprofit human services agency, to develop the dilapidated 10-story building on its Hillcrest campus into 251 units of affordable housing for people with low-income and chronic health conditions.

Residents would include veterans and people suffering from psychiatric diagnoses or a range of illnesses, from diabetes to AIDS.

The bid was met with fierce opposition from a coalition of civic leaders and elected officials, who said the “questionable population” could put children at nearby schools in danger.

Now a new version of the project is being bandied about, said sources close to the hospital and confirmed by local leaders.

Hospital officials hope to compromise and house fewer patients than originally proposed. The number is still up in the air, but a source said there would still be more than 100 patients.

“The plan keeps changing, but never actually gets formally introduced,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman, who learned of the new concept last week. “I don’t know if this idea will gel into a plan more than the last one.”

Several proposals are on the table, said Celia Dosamantes, a spokesperson for Assemblymember David Weprin, though the Comunilife plan is still front and center.

“There is room for discussion, which is good news,” she said.

Last month, Community Board 8 approved a resolution to demolish the T Building after a request from State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymember Nily Rozic.

“This building is in serious disrepair,” Avella said, adding that it costs the hospital $2 million a year to maintain. “Money that is going into that building is taking away from patient care. That building should come down.”

But Queens preservationists are appealing to the city and state to save and landmark the former tuberculosis clinic.

“This hospital is part of a great war against disease, poverty and hardship,” Queens Preservation Council Chair Mitchell Grubler said.

The next step for the site heavily depends on money.

Funds for the multi-million dollar housing unit have not been secured yet, sources said, and it was unclear how much it would cost to dismantle.

“It’s hard to distinguish between a plan and merely an idea that isn’t going anywhere,” Lancman said. “Last time, there was all smoke and noise and nothing ever came of it.”

Queens Hospital Center spokesperson Cleon Edwards said officials are still working to find a resolution that “seeks to balance concerns” of the community with the hospital’s “obligation to provide high quality healthcare services to its patients.”

Comunilife did not respond to a request for comment.



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.”




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.

$120M psychiatric pavilion set to open in Glen Oaks

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A multimillion dollar psychiatric pavilion in Glen Oaks is slated to open its doors to inpatients next month.

Zucker Hillside Hospital officials celebrated the $120 million project on December 7. The 130,000-square-foot facility, which has 115 beds, also includes a center for dementia patients and a new electroconvulsive therapy unit.

“The mental health system in this country is broken and deteriorated. Our pledge is, not [broken] in this hospital, not in our health system, not in our communities,” said Joseph Schulman, executive director of Zucker Hillside.

The two-story pavilion, located at 75-59 263rd Street, will treat patients suffering with depression, mood and affective disorders, substance abuse and dementia when it opens on January 8, officials said.

“Psychiatric illness and addiction cause heartache and alter lives. Their devastating impact scars families for generations,” said Dr. John Kane, vice president of the Behavioral Health Services for North Shore-LIJ. “This new pavilion will help us treat these disorders to change that, healing families and returning people to society’s mainstream.”

According to Kane, behavioral health disorders affect nearly half the population during the course of a lifetime and account for more disability and missed days of work than any other illness.

Queens Hospital Center cut the ribbon on an 8,500-square-foot expanded psychiatric program last week, but Kane said the recent sprouting of facilities does not mean there is an increase in a total number of beds in the community.

The needs of many mentally ill individuals are still not met, he said, and the emergence of local centers may only indicate a rebuilding of state-of-the-art facilities.

“In the last 10 years, the health system has made a tremendous investment in both inpatient and outpatient care, and that’s what we need,” Kane said.

Cathie Lemaire, of Huntington, said she has been hospitalized five times for severe depression and said the illness sidetracked her life for many years until Zucker Hillside suggested she try electroconvulsive therapy.

“I had great careers in sales, in electronics. I was selling to military and commercial contractors, but I would have repeated depressive episodes,” she said. “[Zucker Hillside] has allowed me to get back to my life, to my old self, to living. It’s priceless.”

Federal health survey checks up on Queens

| RubenMuniz@queenscourier.com

health survey

Queens has begun its checkup.

The borough was tapped back in March to participate in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which studies trends throughout the country — including hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

The survey began at Queens Hospital Center on May 1 in a group of interconnected trailers equipped with state-of-the-art medical technology. So far, about 250 Queens residents have been selected for the program.

Jacque DeMatteis, study manager for NHANES in Queens, said this is a result typical of larger cities where NHANES is held due to the hustle and bustle of city dwellers’ schedules, as opposed to smaller towns where more people are eager and available to participate.

Still, DeMatteis said she’s glad the survey has reached the buzzing borough.

“[Queens’ diversity] is one of the things that is extremely beneficial for us,” she said. “Our sample is drawn on gender, age, race and ethnicity, and everyone is here in Queens.”

The screening and selecting phase of the survey started on May 1. The actual process of testing and sampling participants will run along with the screening and selecting phase until June 26.

The program assesses fitness levels of people of all ages, and provides an opportunity to gain information on one’s health, survey officials said. Information in areas such as oral, nutritional and auditory health is gathered by health professionals with advanced technological equipment. Officials said the NHANES trailers include a soundproof auditory lab, a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) machine and a laboratory complete with blood, urine, and HPV test samples.

DeMatteis said NHANES surveys conducted in the 1960s and 1970s found a correlation between low folic acid and birth defects, as a result of data gathered from pregnant women. The survey is also responsible for finding harmful effects in lead paint and gasoline, DeMatteis said.

The survey extends to 15 different locations throughout the United States on an ongoing basis and reaches up to 6,000 people a year, said Jeff Lancashire, spokesperson for the National Center for Health Statistics.

Lancashire said a few hundred residents in Queens will be contacted — by invite only — through June, based on a random sampling from the most recent Census. If selected, they will receive a letter in the mail and a follow-up phone call.

The elected volunteers will first be asked to answer a health interview questionnaire, Lancashire said, before participating in a comprehensive physical at one of the agency’s mobile examination sites.

Why is Colorectal Cancer in the News?

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


By Margaret Kemeny, M.D.

Director, Cancer Center, Queens Hospital Center

You may have heard about the efforts of celebrities like Katie Couric and Ozzy Osbourne to promote colon cancer prevention during March, which is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. Since colon cancer is the number two leading cause of cancer deaths in America, many organizations and individuals participate in activities that help educate and motivate an understanding of this disease.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colon cancer usually begins as one or more tiny growths, called polyps, in the colon or rectum. If not removed, these polyps may turn into cancer.

What is Queens Hospital Center doing about colorectal cancer?

In 2011, we provided 1,412 colonoscopies and treated 50 patients for colorectal cancer. We also make sure that when they turn 50, every employee receives a birthday card that also reminds them about the need to get screened. Further information, videos, links and brochures are available on our web site at http://www.nyc.gov/html/hhc/html/feature/coloncancer.shtml.

We at Queens Hospital Center have started the first comprehensive cancer center in the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) system. We can offer state-of-the-art treatment for colorectal cancer, which includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. We also have a specialized center for liver metastases from colorectal cancer. We can offer liver surgery, hepatic artery pump chemotherapy, radiofrequency ablation of the tumors and more.

Can anything be done about colorectal cancer?

Yes. A colonoscopy is an exam performed by a gastroenterologist or surgeon where the lining of the rectum and colon are examined for the presence of polyps or other abnormalities.

Studies have shown that it can take about 10 years from the development of a polyp to the progression into a cancer. If these polyps are detected early and removed, these cancers can be prevented. If a colorectal cancer does develop, removal of the cancer at an early stage, before the cancer has had the chance to spread to other tissues or organs, can increase the likelihood of a cure.

In fact, just last month, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a 20-year study done in New York City which showed that colon cancer screening with colonoscopy, including the removal of the lesions that can develop into cancer, reduced the death rate from colon cancer by more than 50 percent.

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

Both men and women are at risk. Colon cancer occurs most often in people 50 years of age and older, and the risk increases as you get older. A family history of colon cancer may also increase your risk for this disease. People at high risk for colon cancer may need to get tested more often and at an earlier age.

Is colon cancer preventable?

Yes. Removing growths early can prevent cancer. If cancer already exists, screening tests can find it early when it’s easier to treat. Everyone 50 years of age or older should have regular colon cancer screening tests.

What are the signs of colorectal cancer?

People who have polyps or colon cancer usually don’t have signs of it, especially in the early stages. That’s why having regular screening tests is so important! However anyone with rectal bleeding should be screened.

How do I get screened?

Colon cancer screening is available at all HHC public hospitals at little or no cost. If you don’t have insurance or can’t afford medical care, you may qualify for HHC Options. Visit our web site, www.nychhc.org, to find an HHC hospital near you.

Remember this name: Greg Floyd

| vschneps@queenscourier.com

From the streets of Queens’ tough neighborhoods to the heights of leading a union with 1.4 million members is an extraordinary journey. This has been the life of Gregory Floyd, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Mr. Floyd’s Local 237, with 24,000 public employee members, making it the largest teamster’s local in the nation, came to my attention when old friend Phyllis Shafran told me about working with this amazing man.  I never knew that the union represents over 500 different title jobs from School Safety Agents and police officers at public hospitals to administrative attorneys to airport administrative assistants to auto claims adjustors to plasterers to plumbers to storekeepers to zoning inspectors — it literally goes from A to Z careers covering an enormous breadth of people.  And Mr. Floyd is worried.

After his rise from the youngest hospital police captain at Queens Hospital Center, he was elected vice president of the group’s association. He was elected in 2007 as the union’s president, the fifth in its 55-year history.

His power and influence was recognized when he was appointed as a trustee to the Board of the N.Y.C. public pension fund, the employee retirement system, one of the largest public funds in the United States.  It controls assets of $41 billion. It is a position from which he is advocating that the pension dollars should be used to help get the city through its fiscal crisis.

Although his position requires his attention seven days a week his family still takes his highest priority. The day we met he was off to watch his son play ball. He shared that whenever possible he doesn’t miss a game.  He also doesn’t miss an opportunity to remind everyone of the accomplishments of the union movement.

“I think that people have forgotten the achievements labor has made over the last 100 years,” he said. “For example, the 40-hour work week is now standard for all workers, union or not, as are the eight-hour work day and decent wages and benefits.”

Mr. Floyd is a proud man who realizes he has his work cut out for him.

Although many battles have been won by labor there still seem many more are ahead. He seems the right man in these challenging times.

As a member of the Council for Unity, which promotes safety, unity and achievement in schools and communities, his experience seems appropriate for our times and never needed more.

Greg Floyd is a man and a name to remember!


Courier Publisher Victoria Schneps to be honored at Queens Hospital Center gala

| tcimino@queenscourier.com

The auxiliary of Queens Hospital Center (QHC) will be honoring Queens Courier publisher Victoria Schneps among five others at its 75th anniversary gala on Thursday, October 13.

The night will be hosted by Bill McCreary and will feature a special performance by Deborah Cox

The gala at Russo’s on the Bay will also honor Lindella Artman, RN, nursing supervisor at QHC, Gregory Floyd, president of Local 237 Teamsters, Premprakash Rao, pharmacy supervisor of QHC, Ada Deberry, president of QHC Auxiliary and Jasmin Moshirpur, MD, dean/medical director at QHC.

The QHC Auxiliary is a volunteer non-profit organization whose primary mission is to raise funds for direct patient care. All proceeds from the Gala will go directly toward patient care initiatives.

For more information, call 718-883-GALA (4252) or email QHCGala@nychhc.org.