If ever a community felt imposed upon it is the one represented by the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association. To the west of the civic is the Queens Hospital Center, and to the east is St. Johns University. What should be a quiet middle-class one-family residential neighborhood is being squeezed by two giant community facilities with large amounts of money and the desire to expand.
When the community facilities were designated in the Zoning Resolution of 1961, the size of these facilities and the number of people from faraway communities using them were not even imagined.
A recent public hearing by the Health and Hospitals Corp. on the proposal to build an 800-seat magnet high school on the QHC campus to house the Queens Gateway to Health Sciences High School caused condemnations by the community.
Homeowners are bothered by people visiting and workers and faculty members of these two community facilities parking their cars on the streets, with vehicles edging over driveways, people dropping trash on streets, car engine pollution fouling the air, visitors making all kinds of noise during the day and night, and grease spots on the street, which homeowners then tack onto their carpets. Imagine the sounds of doors banging or friends calling to each other on a quiet street in the early evening or at night. Then there are drunk students.
Residents may not know that Gateway is a small functioning high school with 550 students on 87th Road, not far from Hillcrest High School and Queens Hospital Center. Students in Gateway are screened prior to acceptance and train at QHC, as do the 500 students in the Health Careers program at Hillcrest High School. Most of these students are young women, and they can be seen heading back to their schools in their uniforms after early morning clinical work at QHC.
These young women are training to become certified practical nurses, dental assistants and EMT workers and must be focused on their careers because they must pass a rigorous New York state exam. These high school students will take care of us if we are ill, and our lives will be in their hands. Some will become RNs or doctors.
Opposition to the QHC high school by Kevin Forrestal, president of the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, and resident Bernie Diamond, Community Board 8 members, centers around more people using public transportation and the lack of parking in the area for school faculty. Since the Department of Education does not provide on-site parking, there will be parking problems.
The campus will also contain a morgue and an EMS building which may or may not have on-site parking. Why cant the city provide parking for the staffs of all the buildings, perhaps a multistory garage? Of course, the community wants less usage of the QHC campus so fewer cars will be parked on residential streets.
The community is unhappy that the newly rebuilt QHC only has 200 beds while the buildings it replaced had more beds. The HHC seems to be listening because at the hearing it was stated that 50 more beds will be added. The HHC seems to feel that this will be enough due to the trend for more outpatient care. Now if they will only address the parking problems.
If the HHC passes the proposal to transfer the land to the Department of Education for the Gateway school, there will be another hearing by the City Council. Tentative plans are for the high schools construction to begin in 2004, with completion expected in 2006.
The civic associations of Queens through the Queens Civic Congress are supporting the proposals of Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), chair of the Zoning Committee, for a revision of the community facility law, so communities such as the Hillcrest Estates Civic will not be caught between two large facilities. The parking squeeze is one of the reasons there is so much opposition to large community facilities.
Good and Bad News of the Week
It is good that we have techniques to screen and treat people with tuberculosis. I recently read that if potential immigrants are given a chest X-ray to detect active TB, then we can save money in the long run. A skin test can detect latent TB.
About 30 years ago, all the teachers and students in the high school in which I was teaching took the skin test because an active case was discovered. One of the reasons my wife retired was that she was told it didnt matter if her kindergartners had TB because if they coughed on her, which they did, they couldnt cough hard enough to infect her. Most of her children were foreign-born, but most had learned to speak English before they left her class.
©2003 Community News Group
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