St. Mary’s Hospital to expand

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St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside is embarking on a $114 million expansion the facility said will move its patients into more modern quarters and cut down on their hospital stays.

Jeffrey Frerichs, president and chief executive officer of the hospital, called the project “a major milestone in the history of St. Mary’s.”

“This project, it’s really overdue from the standpoint of the obsolescence of the physical plant in Bayside,” he said. “The benefits of this really fall to the children and their families.”

Construction is expected to begin late next month and end in about two years, according to Dr. Edwin Simpser, executive vice president and chief medical officer of St. Mary’s.

Frank Skala, president of the East Bayside Homeowners Association, said he was opposed to the plan because residents would be subject to dirt, noise and cars during construction.

“It’s going to be a major hassle,” he said. “It will turn a residential area into a construction yard.”

The hospital said the construction will create 420 temporary jobs.

The expansion will triple the size of the space St. Mary’s uses for rehabilitation — the cornerstone of care at the hospital — from about 4,000 square feet to roughly 12,000 square feet.

The first floor of the new five-story building will be dedicated to rehabilitation space while the other four floors will house the hospital’s patients.

The project will not increase the 97-bed capacity at St. Mary’s but will provide for private and two-bedded rooms. Only four rooms will house four beds.

PS 23 is on St. Mary’s’ campus at 29-01 216th St. for the hospital’s children. Under the expansion, the school, which currently consists of trailers, would be housed in the new building.

The expansion plans also call for 58 additional parking spots on the campus and a Kid’s Store, which patients can use to purchase toys with St. Mary’s Bucks they earn for reaching milestones in therapy.

Of the $114 million used to finance the project, 85 percent is coming from bonds issued by the state Dormitory Authority.

The remaining 15 percent is from donations. Of that 15 percent, 70 percent — or $12 million — has been raised by the hospital so far.

Simpser said the increased space will give the hospital the ability to admit children with heart, lung or gastrointestinal conditions because there would be more room for nurses to monitor them.

The Bayside hospital takes patients who have been discharged from acute care hospitals such as the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

Simpser said the hospital has had “ongoing dialogue” with Community Board 11, but St. Mary’s has not yet been invited by CB 11 to present its plans to the community.

He said the hospital intends to create a community committee so neighbors can address their concerns with St. Mary’s.

Simpser said St. Mary’s modified its original plans for the construction based on complaints from the community that the new building would be too close to their homes.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 6:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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