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St. Mary’s, community clash over hospital plans

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But Bayside civic leader Frank...

By Kathianne Boniello

A day before its scheduled meeting with the community on neighborhood issues such as traffic and the expansion of its facilities St. Mary’s Hospital in Bayside issued a news release announcing several planned improvements.

But Bayside civic leader Frank Skala, who has been working to prevent any expansion of the hospital, said the organization has refused to discuss anything but parking and traffic issues with the community and ignored other problems.

According to the hospital, the improvements include a 35 percent reduction in the number of buses used to transport children to the St. Mary’s Medical Day Care program, the hiring of two full-time security guards to monitor traffic and parking, and the addition of help from the 111th Police Precinct to monitor speeding cars near the facility at 29-01 216th St.

The hospital also said St. Mary’s employees are being monitored to make sure their vehicles have parking stickers and registration numbers and the administration is looking for an engineering firm to re-evaluate its parking lot to find more space for vehicles.

St. Mary’s Hospital for Children is a non-profit, long-term and rehabilitation facility that has 97 beds and treats children with a wide range of medical disorders. The hospital moved to Bayside from the West Side of Manhattan in 1951.

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) obtained a $590,000 grant for the hospital in December and at the same time sparked the ire of Bayside civic leaders who have been opposed to the hospital’s physical expansion.

Skala, president of the East Bayside Homeowner’s Association, and Dr. Blanche Felton, head of the John Golden Park Block Association, have opposed any expansion of St. Mary’s Hospital for years. The hospital sits within a quiet pocket of suburban Bayside overlooking Little Neck Bay.

After the announcement of Ackerman’s grant, both civic leaders sought to revive the Joint Advisory Community Council, a group of both community people and St. Mary’s officials.

The May 2 meeting was the second meeting of the Joint Advisory Community Council this year. It was slated to be held after press time.

Skala said the hospital has refused to discuss several issues with the community, including specific details on any planned expansion of the Bayside facility.

“We want maps, plans, diagrams, permits and costs,” Skala said. “They will not do it.”

St. Mary’s officials could not be reached for comment on Skala’s reaction to their plan.

The civic leader said the hospital has refused to remove lights facing neighboring homes, has not discussed the use of pesticides in its landscaping and has not adequately addressed the removal of trailers being used for educating kids on the St. Mary’s grounds without building a major addition to the hospital.

After being contacted by Skala and Felton, state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) wrote to Dr. Burton Grebin, president of St. Mary’s Hospital, urging him to share information with the community.

“Tax exempt organizations, such as St. Mary’s along with its various corporate entities, should share information with the local community,” Padavan said in the April 30 letter. “It is important that the community be aware of St. Mary’s planning.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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