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Residents fume over St. Mary’s plan

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"If they're permitted to build here, it's going to mean the end of our neighborhood," said Blanche Felton, president of the Golden Park Civic Association.The hospital, 29-01 216th St., had filed a Dec. 27, 2006, certificate of need for a $105 million project to add an on-site patient services pavilion and 60 new parking spaces. The New York State Department of Health is slated to review the CON on Feb. 7, but the proposal is vehemently opposed by residents neighboring the hospital, who claim it will overwhelm parking, traffic and sanitation services.State Assemblywoman Ann Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside) and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) both wrote the state DOH requesting a postponement of the hearing because of residents' objections to the plan."The only winners here are the administrators of St. Mary's," one resident said to applause. "It's just more ways to generate revenues for themselves," the resident added, honing in on a theme that dominated much of the night.Karen Pender, whose home neighbors the hospital, said community relations with the facility's leadership have long been "strained." She took the hospital's board of directors to task for purportedly ignoring community concerns."This is a pro-business agenda," she said, adding that the directors were prioritizing "making money over concerns of the community."Following a procession of speakers denouncing the hospital's plans, Simpser tried convincing the audience that the expansion was aimed at improving patients' living conditions.He also said he recognized community concerns about parking, traffic and environmental impact. "We understand that there is a need to be a good neighbor," he said.But before Simper could continue, CB 11 member Frank Skala took exception to his assertion about when the CON became public knowledge and boomed, "You're either incompetent or you're changing the story."Skala was then joined by several other attendees who sharply asked why Simpser and Burton Grebin, the hospital's president, made about $1 million total in salary. Cries of "Shame!" and "This is supposed to be a charity!" rang through the auditorium.Despite CB 11 Chair Steven Newman's intervention, the shouting continued until Simpser took his seat. He appeared taken aback by the vehemence of the opposition but told the TimesLedger he was "not surprised" by the reaction."Unfortunately, some people didn't know about our meeting," he said in reference to an apparent community outreach attempt in January of 2007.. Simpser said he was "absolutely" willing to sit down with residents and discuss their concerns at a later date.In a briefing for reporters the next day, Simpser sought to clarify the hospital's plans, providing a Powerpoint presentation and a visual representation of site plans."I think it is important to set the record straight," Simpser said. He emphasized that the proposed addition would be placed in the back of the existing facility, facing the Cross Island Parkway and not the neighborhood. He also said he kept everyone abreast of any new information about the CON, holding a public meeting in January 2007, sending copies of the document to Skala in March, and making a presentation to CB 11 in the spring of that year.Simpser also made a point of noting that the proposed pavilion will hold no administrative offices. "With what we have now, there's not enough play space or rehab room" for patients, he said. The TimesLedger's publisher, Steven Blank, is vice chairman of the board of directors for St. Mary's Hospital for Children.

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