It was nearly 12 months ago — only two days before Hurricane Sandy — that the Joseph P. Addabbo Health Center cut the ribbon on its new Ozone Park health clinic at 105-34 Rockaway Blvd.
At the time, the clinic — named for former Rep. Joe Addabbo, who represented southern Queens in Congress from 1961 until his death in 1986 — was prepping to open the Ozone Park location, its seventh, in December.
The new location, which would join six others in Jamaica, Rockaway and Brooklyn, is to offer general medical care, dental, OB/GYN and pediatric services. The center also is planning to partner with Fidelis Care at the site to serve uninsured and underinsured patients.
But nearly a year after the ribbon was cut on the center, it still remains closed; the front doorway boarded up and the sign advertising its coming hanging haphazardly, clinging to hope that 10 months after it was due to start accepting patients, it will very soon.
“The site has been done since December, and we have been struggling to get certificates of occupancy from the city,” said Robert Fliegel, interim executive director of the Addabbo Health Center System, which is expected to see 216,000 patients this year.
The site is a mixed-use building with residential units above the main offices. Fliegal said the location is not typical for an Addabbo Center.
“Because there are tenants 24 hours a day, the safety standards are unbelievable,” he explained. “We’re not used to this.”
Normally, the center builds its own facility or takes over an existing one, as it did with Mary Immaculate’s St. Dominic’s center in Jamaica and Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn. But Fliegal said the group was unable to find a location in Ozone Park to construct a new facility, so it decided to rent a storefront on Rockaway Boulevard.
City Department of Buildings records show at least three violations issued at the site in the past four years, including the most recent one concerning sprinklers in the basement of the office. An open violation exists dealing with failure to file a 2011 boiler inspection.
But Fleigal said they are all landlord issues, stemming from problems in adjacent storefronts. Currently, the owner is dealing with violations from a former restaurant several doors down.
He said renting a storefront was an experience the center wouldn’t try again.
Two of the center’s six clinics — it’s flagship location in the Rockaways and one in Red Hook, Brooklyn — were affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“I think that’s slowed up the process unfortunately,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), the son of the center’s namesake.
Fliegal said the Arverne office has reopened and is operating at capacity and the Red Hook facility is being completely rebuilt, and there have been issues with the city concerning that site too.
Since the ribbon cutting, the Addabbo Center also fired its executive director, Dr. Peter Nelson, due to rifts between him and the board of directors. Fliegal was appointed to serve as the interim director.
As a federally qualified health center, the Addabbo Center opens locations in areas that are underserved by healthcare facilities. Ozone Park, which is only served locally by one major hospital — Jamaica Hospital Medical Center — is one of those areas. Many southern Queens residents travel even farther — to Long Island Jewish or North Shore Hospital in Nassau County — for care.
Fliegal said the issues at the Ozone Park facility have frustrated him because he sees the need for care in the neighborhood.
“The healthcare world is burning outside my window and we want to get in there,” he said.
Fliegal hopes to have the facility open in about four weeks.