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Animal hospital to close to make way for school

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The 63-year-old Douglaston resident wanted to hold on to the white house on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 222nd...

By Adam Kramer

After 29 years of treating Queens Village’s dogs and cats, Dr. Richard Lange is closing up shop at the Queens Village Animal Hospital.

The 63-year-old Douglaston resident wanted to hold on to the white house on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 222nd Street next to the abandoned Best Ford car dealership for another two or three years, but the city had other plans.

The city offered to buy the property from Lange, who agreed to the terms. The School Construction Authority purchased the Queens Village Animal Hospital and the Best Ford site for a new elementary school. Construction on PS 263 will start in September and completion of the new 704-seat school was scheduled for 2003.

“I got the final notice today,” said Lange, who grew up in Jamaica, as he sat in the waiting room of his office Monday. “A lot of people had heard about it, but I had to wait for the mayor’s approval on the school construction before it became official.”

He said the School Construction Authority gave him 90 days to clean up and vacate the property and he is shooting for a June 26 closing date. He said even though he wanted to retire at 65, he would have had a hard time selling the practice and the building had to be sold as a commercial property.

“I had explored other options,” Lange said. “I received fair market value — the city did not force me out. I could have dragged it out, but I decided after 36 years as a veterinarian it was enough.”

Lange, a Jamaica High School and Queens College graduate, bought the Queens Village Animal Hospital in 1972 from Dr. Albert Drolesky, who had originally started the clinic in 1945 right after World War II. He ran the hospital and lived upstairs until 1970 when he had a heart attack and retired.

Before Lange took over the Queens Village Animal Hospital he spent two years working in Staten Island and then five years in Middle Village.

“It is going to be tough for my clients and their pets,” Lange said. “Unfortunat­ely, the way I practice is treating animals on an out-patient basis and people have become spoiled coming here. I am like the last of the Mohicans — a family practitioner.”

For Lange closing up shop will almost be like leaving a place where he has spent his entire life. He said over the years his clients and their pets have become more than owner and patient — they are friends.

“It is awful,” said Julice Chantel of Floral Park, L.I., who had stopped by to ask a question about her dog Bubba. “Dr. Lange is so wonderful. There is nobody around like him. Oh, my God, I don’t know where to go when my dog is sick.”

Lange said he has become so comfortable with his clients and they with him that sometimes people just come in to talk. He sees them in the grocery store and they want to discuss the drugs their doctor had given them, he said.

“This whole area is a small little town in New York City,” he said. “My daughters worked here growing up, cleaning cages and things like that. Now my daughter is a pediatrician and people take their kids to her and pets to me.”

Lange and his wife have no plans to leave Queens and will stay in Douglaston. They plan to travel a bit and take their first vacation longer than a week in 30 years.

He said he will keep busy in his free time helping to repair his daughter’s new house and will continue to take care of the animals at the Queens Farm Museum.

“It has been a privilege to have served you and your pets,” he wrote in a poster announcing his retirement. “I will certainly miss all the friendships I have developed over these many years. May God bless all your creatures great and small.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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