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East 96th Street to Be Transformed Into 1-Way?

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Closing the Veterans Administration Hospital at 800 Poly Place is out of the question, according to Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Whether the proposed consolidation means closing Manhattan’s facility, or shutting down Brooklyn’s Veterans Hospital – either way it is a reprehensible idea,” Markowitz testified at a Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services local advisory panel in early May. Closure is one of several options that will be considered after consultants Pricewaterhouse-Coopers make recommendations following a series of four advisory meetings, according to Larry Devine, at the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office of Public Affairs. This was part of a two-year-old nationwide drive to consolidate services and improve efficiency under the CARES program, he said. The process should be complete in the fall. An assessment found that parts of the hospital in Manhattan and Brooklyn were empty or underused. The Manhattan Campus of the VA New York Harbor Health Care System has 1.2 million square feet, of which 36,000 is vacant. The Bay Ridge facility has a total of 969,000 square feet, of which 27,000 is empty, according to a statement issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to Devine, savings from closing obsolete and underused facilities would be used to modernize and improve services. “Any savings that could be achieved by eliminating duplication, saving money on lighting and heating, or paying rent on unused buildings, would be plowed back into the system,” Devine said. “This is not about saving money; it’s an exercise in becoming more efficient, so we can do more with money we have.” But Brooklyn politicians have yet to be convinced. Rep. Vito J. Fossella helped to bus veterans to the May 3 public meeting so they could voice their concerns. The Manhattan and Brooklyn VA hospitals provide vital services to veterans and should be protected, said Fossella’s spokesperson, Craig Donner. “Any time you try to improve efficiency, that is a good thing, but we don’t want to see efficiency improved by reducing services at the hospital, or closing either of the hospitals,” Donner said. The Brooklyn hospital serves some 16,500 veterans in Brooklyn. “The hospital should be strengthened and its services there should be strengthened,” he said. “That is why we are fighting to prevent any consolidation of services that would lead to a loss of services at the Brooklyn VA or closure of either of the hospitals,” Donner said. Closures will hurt veterans who are disabled or frail because they will have to travel further to services, according to Markowitz. “Veterans and their families, who do not generally number among the wealthy, are heavily dependent on mass transporta­tion,” Markowitz said. He also said that closure of a hospital is particularly egregious when soldiers are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and may return injured. “It’s wrong to disrespect anyone, but it is downright outrageous to disrespect American veterans,” Markowitz said.

Updated 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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