"It was approved," the hospital communications director, Leslie Johnson, said of the unanimous New York State Hospital Review and Planning Council's vote last Thursday. "We're just going to do our best to inform the community and work with people now."That may prove a tough task, however, as two area civic groups, some of whose members live near the facility, still remain opposed to the $105 million expansion that would create a patient services pavilion and 60 new parking spaces at the 29-01 216th St. facility. The proposal has also caused some internal tumult within Community Board 11, as some members have questioned the actions of its chairman, Steven Newman, for allegedly siding with St. Mary's without consulting the full board.Frank Skala, CB 11 member and president of the East Bayside Homeowners' Association, ruled out the possibility of compromise in a phone interview."We don't want to meet with Dr. Simpser," he said, referring to the hospital's vice president, Edwin Simpser. "It would be like compromising with a little bit of cancer - you don't want to have any cancer."Asked to respond to that comment, Johnson, the communications director, said Simpser could not immediately be reached Monday evening. But she said the hospital project "will be minimally invasive to the lives of our neighbors and monumentally important to the lives of the children we serve."Skala's strong words came on the heels of a volatile Feb. 4 CB 11 meeting in which several St. Mary's neighbors expressed vehement opposition to the plan because of concerns over parking, sanitation, noise and traffic. Simpser was also shouted down when he tried to defend his hospital's plans at the meeting. Simpser insisted the expansion was aimed at benefiting the hospital's long-term patients, most of whom are acutely injured.Skala said he accepted one of Simpser's statements -- that the expansion would take place in the existing site's rear and would not face the neighborhood -- but dismissed the idea that this measure would reduce the project's impact on residents, saying "two years" of ongoing construction would "drive the neighbors crazy."Ocelia Claro, an 11-year member of the Golden Park Civic Association and CB 11 member, also expressed frustration with Simpser. She asserted that he had notified the civic of the Feb. 7 vote, but not of an earlier Jan. 24 meeting, which, she said, the state Department of Health had held to get community input."We were not informed of that meeting. Absolutely, that was the reason the neighbors had not acted," she said. There was no opportunity for such input at the Feb. 7 ruling, she added.Simpser said in a briefing following the CB 11 meeting that he gave the civics all the information he was given by the state DOH.Claro also made a point of criticizing Newman, the CB 11 chairman, for taking a tour of the St. Mary's facility in July with two other board members without, she said, informing the board at large. According to a secretary at his workplace, Newman was out of state for the rest of the month and could not be reached.Clarotook further exception to a letter Newman sent to the state Department of Health on Feb. 5. The letter said residents' concerns "are being resolved and corrected" by the hospital and that Newman and two other board members "agree that the 1950 Hospital needs modernization to meet the needs of the children it serves.""To send that letter with a CB 11 seal is just unacceptable," Claro said. The board had not taken a vote on the St. Mary's proposal.Mel Meer, another CB 11 member, circulated a response to other board members, offering a stinging critique of both Newman's letter and his handling of the Feb. 4 monthly meeting. "I thought he had no business submitting the letter," Meer said in a phone interview, adding that it was intended to convey the impression that the whole board supported St. Mary's applicatio
©2008 Community News Group
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