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Queens Chronicle

‘T’roubled times for old hospital building

Community board, state officials want 1937 structure demolished

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Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:30 am

Speculation over the future of Queens Hospital Center’s old tuberculosis building had died down in the past year since community opposition rose against a plan to convert the structure into housing for the elderly mentally disabled.

Now officials are going on offense, calling for ehe building to be demolished.

Community Board 8 two weeks ago passed a resolution calling for the building to be razed in response to a letter from state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) calling for just such a show of opinion.

In an email, Cleon Edwards, a spokesman for the hospital, said the building right now is being used for administrative and office functions, and that “no final decision has been made regarding the building’s future use.”

The hospital is run by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. Speaking in an interview on Wednesday, Avella said given the age of the building — it was built in 1937 — the likelihood of materials such as asbestos and other factors make tearing the building down the most cost-effective for taxpayers. Rozic’s office did not respond to a request for comment

“It may cost $2 million a year just for upkeep. That’s a huge expense,” he said. “It’s a city hospital, and that cost draws down from the funds received from the city and the state.”

In a statement issued last week, the Queens Preservation Council called for the building to be saved.

Chairman Mitchell Grubler said it was designed by John Russell Pope, architect for the Jefferson Memorial. It was built partially with funding from the New Deal’s Public Works Authority.

“Not only is this handsome building an outstanding work by a master architect, but its history embodies our city’s and our country’s response to great public healthcare needs during the Great Depression.”

Avella fully aknowledged that point can be argued.

“But I think the building is just so far gone that the amount of money needed for rehabilitation would be prohibitive — and it is taxpayer’s money,” Avella said.

But he added that demolishing the building would allow the HHC, the city and the neighborhood to start over from scratch.

Welcome to the discussion.