The Civic Scene: CB8 fights disruptions by Queens Hospital

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In past columns I have written about the disruption to the surrounding community by such large facilities as Queens College, St. John’s University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and New York University. Add to this list Queens Hospital Center.

At the January meeting of Community Board 8, Bernard Diamond, chairman of the board’s Queens Hospital Center committee, gave a report and distributed literature on the quality of life conditions related to the hospital. Diamond owns a home across the street from the hospital. He is a member of the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association which has the distinction of having Queens Hospital Center to its west and St. John’s University to the east.

Diamond had been on the Queens Hospital Center Advisory Board for 25 years until he was recently term-limited off the board. However, he remains a member of Community Board 8. He and his unhappy neighbors continue to be activists. “I have grown old on these boards,” he recently told me.

Diamond’s memorandum to CB 8 dated Dec. 5, 2001 started out by stating that, “Commitments made to community residents surrounding Queens Hospital Center campus, at both public meetings held with the community and meetings with CB 8Q members, by QHC and the Health and Hospitals Corporation officials, are not being kept. Quality of life and environmental issues are responded to with totally unacceptable remarks and absolutely no progress is being made toward resolution.”

The current complaints from homeowners are emergency generators being tested at all hours of the night, loud air conditioning noise levels from the hospital roof, garbage pick-up and deliveries of goods at all hours of the night, vehicle back-up signal noise during evening hours, compactor noise, automatic compressor noise, vehicles traveling over speed bumps at high speed at night, frequent smells of garbage and diesel oil, garbage in the streets — including confidential patient information — location of compressed liquid oxygen tanks where terrorists could get to them easily, excessive lighting glaring into homes 50 feet away, unruly behavior by people working in the hospital at all hours and a lack of parking facilities for hospital employees so their cars spill out all over the neighborhood.

Although the law states that any construction work should not start before 7 a.m., this rule is not always followed. The residents often were bothered by construction noise as the new hospital was built. Further plans for the Queens Hospital Center campus call for the renovation and or demolition of several buildings. Diamond presented a chart showing what would be done over the next few years.

The T Building will be converted into Enriched Senior Housing & Assisted Living. The A Building will be demolished. This will take eight to 12 months. A EMS base station will be built. A new county medical examiner’s office will be built as well as an 800-seat Health & Science High School. Some of this is good, some may be bad.

Some members of the community are concerned about the noise and dust all this construction will create. They are also concerned about the impact of all of the workers and students who will occupy these buildings. Will these people be noisy? Will they leave behind trash? Will additional cars and buses and EMS trucks disrupt the community? Where will all these vehicles park?

Yes, these community facilities will provide services. Some of these workers may even save the lives of the people who live nearby. However, will possible noise, trash, vehicular traffic and more people passing through the area cause trauma, disruption and illnesses to the peaceful people who now live there? How much disruption should these large community facilities cause in the surrounding communities until they are controlled?

It was reported that Alvin Warshaviak, chairman of the 50 volunteers who comprise Community Board 8, had a letter written to the Health & Hospital Corporation expressing the concerns of the community. There has been a response. Hopefully there will be a public hearing to discuss the issues which could not be solved during private meetings.

Good and Bad News of the Week

Crime is down in Fresh Meadows. It is down in the 107th Precinct 10 percent from last year on top of the 18 percent from the previous year. Burglaries have increased since November in houses and stores mostly during the day. However, it was recently reported that there are now only 119 patrolling officers. Many have retired. I guess the fact that they have not had a new contract for a year plus the many hours of overtime created by the World Trade Center tragedy made many who were eligible figure it was time to leave.

We also lost Sgt. David Kaiser to retirement. He was in the Community Policing Unit and worked very closely with all the civic associations bordering Union Turnpike. He led all the other officers who stopped the disruption and violence caused by the bars along Union Turnpike.

Well, our former mayor would not give police officers, fire fighters and teachers a decent contract. It will probably take five or 10 years until the replacements for those who have left will attain the skill level of their predecessors. I call what has happened “penny wise and pound foolish.”

Reach columnist Bob Harris by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 140.

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