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LIJ parking plan angers local civic

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Long Island Jewish Medical Center’s proposed addition to its parking garage might alleviate some of the traffic that has plagued the surrounding neighborhood, but adding two more levels to the existing structure has the community riled up.

At a meeting last week with the Lost Community Civic Association, Long Island Jewish outlined its modernization plans, which will add 24 feet to the structure by creating two more levels on top of the existing three. The development and revitalization of LIJ has been a hot button topic for the community, especially the residents who live near the hospital and are inconvenienced by heavy street traffic.

“The focus of the meeting was on the parking garage,” said Richard Hellenbrecht, chairman of Community Board 13. “The hospital is proposing the addition of two stories on the already-existing garage. It is a difficult issue for the community.”

For many years, residents of the Lost Community have had to deal with people who visit the hospital not respecting the neighborhood. The hospital has “gone a long way” to have its staff park on the campus, Hellenbrecht said, but visitors to the facility park in front of driveways and fire hydrants.

LIJ Medical Center, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, is a 829-bed facility on the Queens-Nassau boarder, which also includes Long Island Jewish Hospital, Schneider Children’s Hospital and Hillside Hospital.

The North Shore-LIJ Health System is a group of 18 hospitals throughout Queens, Long Island and Staten Island. Its three main health-care facilities are Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, North Shore University Hospital at Manhasset and the Staten Island University Hospital North Division.

The Lost Community Civic Association covers the area from Lakeville Road west to Little Neck Parkway and from 76th Avenue to Hillside Avenue. The March 12 meeting was a chance for the community to hear the hospital’s plans.

The existing three-story garage, Hellenbrecht said, was supposed to have one level underground and two above. The addition of two more stories will “make it much more of an imposing structure,” he said.

LIJ will need a number of zoning variances to expand the garage, which allows for the community to voice its concerns to the community board. Board approval is one of the necessary steps undertaken to get community zoning rules changed.

“There are a number of places on the campus where LIJ can put a second garage which might even be more convenient,” he said.

The community board has not been thoroughly briefed on the rest of the modernization plans, Hellenbrecht said, but there have been no objections to plans to rebuild the emergency room and some of the other facilities on the campus.

Parking is the big problem, said Michael Castellano, first vice president of the Lost Community Civic Association. The community is against the hospital’s proposed plan to add two stories onto its parking lot, he said, because people are concerned that the structure “will tower over their homes and interfere with the view.”

The hospital provides parking for its staff, but people going to the hospital as well as some doctors and members of the staff cause congestion on the streets surrounding the hospital’s campus.

Castellano said the added parking will increase traffic and put a strain on nearby Hewlett Street, 76th Avenue and 271st Street.

Paul Hochenberg, executive director of the medical center, said the garage is one of the major projects the hospital has planned. He said the hospital plans to enlarge the emergency room to meet the growing needs of the community; build a bed tower in front of the hospital, which will not be higher than the existing facility; renovate and build at Hillside Hospital, scheduled to be finished in two years; and add to Schneider Children’s Hospital.

“The garage is the first step to help alleviate parking problem,” Hochenberg said. “It is the critical piece because some of the new construction will reduce spaces.”

The addition to the existing garage is more economically viable than building a garage on another section of the property, he said. In an effort to meet the aesthetic concerns of the community, he said, the hospital will plant mature trees around the structure.

“Our position is we are sensitive to the needs of the community and listen to what they have to say,” Hochenberg said. “We are concerned about the impact on the community.”

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

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