Dept of Health moving to new digs in LIC

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It is moving day for the city Department of Health — or rather moving month, as the DOH plans to set up shop in Long Island City with a brand-new building and a brand-new set of rules on what sort of food the department can serve to employees.

Zoe Tobin, spokeswoman for the department, said employees began moving into their new location at 2 Gotham Center at Queens Plaza and 28th Street Monday. The brand-new building, which was completed by Manhattan developer Tishman Speyer earlier this year, will be the new workplace for a number of employees who formerly worked at the 15 locations across the city. Tobin said the move is expected to be fully complete in May.

“This is great news,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) in a statement. “The addition of the Department of Health will add to Long Island City’s identity as a thriving hub of businesses and residences.”

Tobin said the DOH will still keep some of its bureaus in lower Manhattan, like Vital Records and Environmental Health.

The new building, which is 662,000 square feet and designed to have about 8,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and 160 parking spaces, cost $316 million. It was designed by Moed De Armas & Shannon and was constructed with green building technology.

Some DOH workers have expressed reservations about relocating to an area with few restaurants or other amenities that are commonplace around their Manhattan offices. The new building also will require all workers to leave the premises by 6 p.m.

Indeed, the area, once considered a hotbed for prostitution in the 1980s, is undergoing much construction, including the ongoing renovations at Queens Plaza, as it is being changed from a manufacturing mecca to one populated with high-rise condos. The department’s tower was built on the site of the Queens Plaza Municipal Parking Garage.

“I think it’s great to have a beautiful new skyscraper where a really ugly parking garage used to stand,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

Van Bramer said he believes the area is being transformed for the better, and said the department employees will bring additional commerce to the area. He said there are some existing businesses in the area and mentioned the retail space planned for the bottom floor of the tower as a place where new businesses can open.

Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, said the area has many places to eat in the area. He said he was glad for the tower as it consolidates many DOH services in one place.

“It’s supposed to be a one-stop shop now,” he said.

Also, with a new building comes new guidelines, and the DOH is attempting to practice what it preaches by issuing mandatory nutrition standards for the meals the agency serves at meetings and celebrations.

In a brochure the department bans deep-fried food, french fries, chips and all sweetened beverages with more than 25 calories per 8 ounces, effectively nixing soda, sweetened tea and juice. Other, more specific rules include no serving pastries, cake or donuts for breakfast; no cookies or candy if a large cake is already being served; and no dips high in saturated fat.

The brochure also provides sample menus for these special events. The celebration special menu includes a mixed vegetable platter with low-saturated fat dips, air-popped popcorn, cheeses with whole grain crackers, fresh fruit, a celebration cake and for drinks coffee, tea, low-fat milk, tap water and seltzer.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 10:56 am, October 12, 2011
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