City gives St. Mary’s go-ahead on expansion

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St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children cleared the latest hurdle in its plans to expand and renovate its facilities after the city ruled Tuesday in favor of the 60-year-old medical center following a complaint by nearby residents.

The city Boards of Standards & Appeals said the $114 million expansion project did not violate any building code regulations and the applications were valid, according to hospital administrators.

A group of Bayside residents who formed a civic, called the Weeks Woodlands Association filed a complaint with the BSA to try and stop the construction after a lawsuit the group had filed in Queens Civil Court was thrown out in January.

Jeffery Frerichs, president of the hospital, said the board’s ruling showed the opposition was unwarranted.

“We’re very pleased about it,” he said of the decision. “We hope it is the last time we have to deal with a distraction.”

Frank Caselli, a Bayside resident of more than 40 years who is a member of the civic, said he expected the BSA to rule in favor of the hospital because no one wants to hear the community’s side.

“What else is new? They deny everything,” he said.

Construction on the new wing began in October, despite the failed lawsuit, and was done to provide the young patients with special needs, most of whom are at the hospital for long-term rehabilitation, with more space and modern facilities.

The wing would go up behind the U-shaped hospital sometime next year and have a new entrance for vehicles; space for PS 23Q, which currently is housed in trailers on the space; and state-of-the-art medical equipment, according to Frerichs. Although more than 100 construction jobs will be created, no new beds will be added to the hospital, the administrators have said.

The Weeks Woodlands Association and other opponents protested the plan, arguing the construction would lead to excessive noise, pollution and traffic.

“There are trucks, machinery, ambulances going on all day long,” Caselli said.

Frerichs disagreed and said St. Mary’s planned its expansion in a way that provided as little inconvenience to the community as possible.

“This is being done at the back of our property,” he said. “It’s almost not even visible from the street. It’s affecting no one adversely.”

Jerry Iannece, chairman of Community Board 11, said he was not surprised by the BSA’s decision because the hospital always had the as of right to proceed with the construction and the civic was not cooperative with the board or other community groups about its actions.

“If you are looking to win support, you give information. This should not be adversarial,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 10:41 am, October 12, 2011
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