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CB12 vows to keep fighting for VA hospital

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Despite numerous complaints and protests against current plans to revamp the St. Albans Veterans Hospital, the federal government has informed the community that it will still go ahead with its proposal to convert part of the acreage for private use.

Southeast Queens veterans supporters and the head of Community Board 12, however, are not taking no for an answer and are pledging to take their fight to the Veterans Administra­tion’s doorstep.

The board’s chairwoman, Adjoa Gzifa, read during the group’s monthly meeting Nov. 17 a letter that was sent to U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) after he and veterans groups sent dozens of letters that criticized the so-called enhanced-use leasing plan to demolish the 55-acre site, rebuild 35 acres for a more modern facility and give the rest of the land over for private development.

Andrea Scarborough, a member of the United Coalition for Veterans and Community Rights, who gave the letter to the board, said St. Albans Village LLC, the preferred developer for the project, does not have the veterans’ best interests in mind in its proposal to make a new high-rise residential building.

“There is no maximum benefit for our community. How can they not understand that housing is not an option in our community,” said Scarborough, the wife of state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans), who is one of the many elected officials in the area against the VA’s proposal.

In August, St. Albans Village member the Rev. Edwin Reed said the 25 acres would be used for a housing complex, a new school and a jazz center. Veterans chastised Reed, who used to work for the Rev. Floyd Flake’s development firm, for not using the space to provide a larger medical space or some other project that would help the returning soldiers.

The veterans have suggested creating a vets women’s health center in its place.

In the Nov. 8 letter that was sent to Meeks, the VA said it would not change its plans and the 35-acre hospital was adequate for the neighborhood because there was a declining veterans population in Queens. The new medical center would retain the same number of beds as the current hospital, according to the VA.

Andrea Scarborough said she is in talks with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) for additional help.

“In other states where the EUL was fought and won, it was because they had a senator and congressman very active in ensuring the EUL was terminated,” she said.

Schumer’s office did not return phone calls for comment as of press time Tuesday.

The activist added that she is mulling a protest at the VA’s offices in Washington. Gzifa supported the idea during the board meeting.

“Just because they say it’s a done deal doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. We’re going to stand up to this challenge,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 6:30 pm, October 10, 2011
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