The years-long fight to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from privately developing part of the St. Albans VA site appears to have come to an end. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens and Nassau) announced today that as a result of Congressional opposition, the agency will abandon its proposal.
“This is terrific news,” Ackerman said. “As a result of significant Congressional pressure, the VA will now ensure that the St. Albans facility is used only to serve veterans. We can never thank our veterans enough for the sacrifices they made to our nation. Now, we must do all we can to ensure that they receive the health services they require.”
Many veterans and their advocates have long opposed the project, in which a private developer would replace the existing facilities with a new nursing home, rehabilitation domiciliary and expanded outpatient facilities in exchange for a long-term lease on part of the site, where it would put up housing and stores open to the general public. Instead they want a full-service hospital there, so servicemen and women in Queens and Nassau counties don’t have to travel to Brooklyn, Manhattan or Suffolk County for care.
On June 13, the House of Representatives passed the Veterans Care Act, by a vote of 411-5, an amendment to a military appropriations bill that would have blocked the project. It was introduced by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Rep. Peter King (R-Nassau).
Meeks called the VA’s decision “a big win for veterans in my congressional district and veterans across metropolitan New York.” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens and the Bronx) also applauded the decision, stating “This land has been, and always should be, for veterans.”