Following a lively discussion at its meeting on June 13, Community Board 8 turned down by a vote of 25-15 an application for the construction of a nursing home on Parsons Boulevard, between 71st and 72nd avenues in Flushing.
The Brookhaven Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, located in Far Rockaway, hopes to open the facility at the new location within approximately 26 months. It would be located next to the 107th Precinct.
The primary sticking points involve potential parking and garbage problems, the proposed height of the new building and the possible use of nonunion workers in its construction, among other issues.
At a committee meeting on the proposal, held two days earlier, the 12 board members were evenly split in their votes, with six in favor and six opposed.
As proposed, the facility would be built on what is now a vacant lot in a zoning district which would limit its size to 142,000 square feet. The applicant, Utopia Realty, LLC, has requested a special permit to allow for a proposed 165,000 square feet.
The number of beds is expected to remainat 298, the same as at the Far Rockaway facility.
Plans call for a four-level “robotic” parking garage, the first such in the borough, that would provide 133 parking spaces.
It is estimated that 125 staff members would work during peak hours, with 50 to 60 on duty the rest of the time.
Several elected officials have already spoken out in favor of the construction. Through representatives at the meeting, Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) called it “a good project,” and Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Howard Beach) offered “enthusiastic support,” saying the home would be “beneficial for the citizens” who live in the area.
But Ken Cohen, president of the Flushing Suburban Civic Association, had several concerns. He expanded on them in a telephone interview, including the possible “over-saturation” of this type of facility in the area. He pointed to a nearby assisted living residence that opened within the past year as evidence, while noting the slight difference between such a facility and the one under discussion.
He also took issue with the alleged lack of communication with the FSCA and other concerned groups in the neighborhood.
“I didn’t hear from their lawyer until the Monday before the public hearing,” he said, referring to Erik Palatnik, who represents the applicant. “We encourage people to come to us and speak to us.”
Cohen indicated that he had been in on the discussions for building at the site more than a decade ago, when a multipurpose complex was proposed.
He also expressed concerns with the proposed height of the building, eight stories vs. the originally planned six, and whether the construction would be a nonunion project that might not provide jobs for area workers.
Board member Frank Magri said, “If it goes nonunion, I’m sure there will be demonstrations.”
Fellow member Allen Bennett, the medical director of a skilled nursing facility in Brooklyn, who supports the proposal, said, “There is a need in the neighborhood. I understand the fears, but the concerns are not based on fact.”
Later, by telephone, Bennett added, “Concern about traffic being a problem in regard to employees just doesn’t happen.” He added that there are no issues with deliveries and garbage pickup.
Bennett did concede that “one concern might be for real, the effects on the police station. I leave it for the NYPD to comment on,” adding, “I didn’t hear anything that the police were concerned. In a residential neighborhood there’s more trouble with school buses.”
The proposal will now be under review by the office of Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. A public hearing by her office is scheduled for June 28 at 10:30 a.m. at Queens Borough Hall.
That will be followed by reviews from the City Planning Commission and the City Council, which is expected to vote on the case by September. Because the change requested is part of the uniform land use review process, the Board of Standards and Appeals is not involved.
At the June 13 meeting, the board also voted 35-4 to amend a previously granted variance to permit the extension of the Push Fitness Club, a physical culture establishment, on the ground floor of the building at 188-02-10 Union Turnpike.
Despite the vote, the proposal was not without controversy.
Stewart Cahn, who manages the property, said of the club, “They built a beautiful palace. It has been quite successful. “
Concerned citizen Denise O’Brien pointed out that if just six clients are using the facility during each of the 65 hours that it’s open a week, it would be used by 390 clients a week, with a potential of 390 additional cars looking for parking. “Nobody objects to businesses. The question is how can we better manage the traffic,” she said.