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Lancman to fight St. Joseph’s drug center

Early this month, site owner Galway Properties leased the building at Union Turnpike and 79th Avenue in Flushing to Manhattan-based Cornerstone of Medical Arts Center Hospital to house a 150-bed inpatient and detoxification combination program.Last week, civic leaders from the area near the site met with City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Flushing) and representatives from Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn's (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky's (D-Flushing) offices to discuss how to fight the deal, which only needs state approval in order to move forward.Lancman empathized with the civic leaders. "Who wants a substance abuse treatment center within blocks of five schools and three houses of worship, and near another substance abuse treatment center?" he asked. The other center, Aurora, on Parsons Boulevard at 79th Avenue, has been in the area for 20 years, he said."The application has to be approved by the state, and there are certain criteria that the applicant has to meet. We're going to argue that Cornerstone doesn't meet those criteria," Lancman said.According to state law, the criteria include a public need for the services at the time and place, and no other facilities or services available as alternates.The next step is a nod from the state Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, known as OASAS, then either a 15-day or 45-day period for input, depending on the size of the project, Lancman said.Kevin Forrestal, president of the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, said "everyone is opposed to the application. Letters will be forwarded from all civics to OASAS."Long Island development company Galway Properties bought the 80,000-square-foot St. Joseph's Hospital site in 2004 after St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Centers sold it in bankruptcy. Ken Cohen, president of the Flushing Suburban Civic Association, said "OASAS has a new commissioner, appointed last week, and I'm hoping OASAS will want to sit down with the communities and listen to their reasoning."Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association President Pat Dolan said "the community would like to see another use for that building." She said housing would be in line with the community's hopes for the site but doubted the developer would listen."They don't care what we have to say because they don't need to care. It just seems to me that this is a waste of a prime piece of property that could be put to better use," she said.Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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