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Hillcrest residents protest developments

The Hillcrest Citizens for Neighborhood Preservation gathered at 160th Street and Goethals Avenue, behind the hospital, to express concern that a planned school, housing and commercial building and three hospital expansion and renovation projects would bring more cars than the community can handle, said Bob Trabold, head of the community group.

"This campus is being overdeveloped," he said Sunday. "It's making a saturated neighborhood even worse. The buses are jammed. Parking's impossible."

The Health and Hospital Corporation, which runs Queens Hospital Center for the city and is overseeing the development projects, said it is looking into the neighborhood concerns.

"We continue to communicate with the community on ways to address their concerns regarding the multi-use development project on the campus of Queens Hospital Center," HHC said in a statement.

Among the plans for the hospital is an 800-seat Department of Education building to house the Queens Gateway to Health Sciences High School. The school is now based in Jamaica with capacity for 500 students and would like to be built adjacent to a hospital to expand its programs for students, said state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose).

"They said they want to be near a hospital," he said. "What about Jamaica Hospital? I'm sure there's room there."

The community also takes in about 29,000 students each day from public and private schools, including nearby St. John's University, Trabold said.

"No other precinct has as many schools as we do," he said of the 107th Precinct, which covers the area.

Another project calls for a 200-unit apartment building to be built on the corner of 164th Street and Goethals Avenue, with retail and commercial office space, Trabold said. The hospital also broke ground on an ambulatory care pavilion this spring, and it plans to raze the medical examiner's building on campus to build a new one, he said.

The Margaret Tietz Center for Nursing Care has said it will renovate the old Triborough Building, which it now owns, to establish a rehabilitative assisted living site.

Some of the plans, including the housing and retail building and the hospital expansion project, do include proposed parking, but the costs would be prohibitive and send people searching for spots on the residential streets, said Kevin Forrester. Projected parking prices range from $50 to $100 a month, Padavan said.

"The issue really is the cost of parking," Forrester said. "People will have to make a decision if they put food on the table or pay for parking."

And while each project has completed impact statements that say each plan will not change the quality of life in the area, the studies were completed individually rather than as a whole, said Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).

"The projects on their face are laudable, but we must be fair and the communities must share the burdens equitably," he said. "Our concerns have always been what will all the development in aggregate on that small parcel of land do to the surrounding community, which is already impacted by other facilities and schools?"

HHC did agree to do a study this summer on the combined impact of all the projects, according to a statement from the agency, but some contend the results should be a foregone conclusion.

"You don't need a study to know that the traffic problems will only be worse," Padavan said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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