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Queens Chronicle

Mount Sinai Queens plans site expansion

$125M project to add a six-story building; Astoria neighbors worry

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:51 am, Thu Jun 27, 2013.

Mount Sinai of Queens plans to operate, mend and improve in the next three years.

Representatives from the Astoria-based medical center presented a proposal to construct a six-story addition on the west side of its property on Crescent Street between 30th Avenue and 30th Road to Community Board 1 on Tuesday. The blueprints would require four zone variances, which CB 1 unanimously voted to support with one abstention and a few stipulations.

The public’s response to the project was mixed with many residents of 30th Road opposing construction calling the hospital a consistently bad neighbor.

“We are very happy to have you here since you are a vast improvement over Astoria General,” said resident Mary Hennessey, noting the former tenant, “but you have a lousy track record with the people on 30th Road and Crescent Street.”

Hennessey said when Mount Sinai Queens took over more than a decade ago they promised to build a garage to house the ambulances. She said five of these vehicles consistently idol in front of the facility blocking sidewalks and parking spaces.

“The white glass building does not fit the aesthetic of the neighborhood,” 30th Road resident Rene Field said.

“I’m having nightmares about what the next three years is going to be like,” said neighbor Pat Farley. “Garbage is picked up in the middle of the night and ambulances keep us up.”

Mount Sinai Queens Executive Director Caryn Schwab said the project, which has an ambulance drive and service yard on the southeastern end, should keep the vehicles off the street. She also laid out other details of the three-year $125 million project that would help minimize annoyances.

“Our goal is minimize our impact on the community around us,” Schwab said.

The new building would grow the emergency department from 4,000 square feet to 20,000. Plans call for more operating rooms as well as a bigger general-care facility with 40 new doctors.

The old building would also get some TLC with new heating, ventilation and air conditioning units as well as five new elevator banks.

“We would no longer have to transfer patients in the same elevator as the food and the visitors,” Schwartz said.

“Ambulances will go to the back,” said an architect with the project. “We will get them off Crescent Street.”

With current zoning the hospital could be 12-stories getting increasingly narrower as it grows taller.

The hospital would prefer a six-story building with equally wide floors.

“I wouldn’t want to see a 12-story building out my window,” said Astoria resident and City Council District 22 Republican candidate Daniel Peterson. Peterson recounted being treated in the hospital for an appendicitis and how many patients’ beds were kept in the hallways because of overcrowding.

The requested variances to allow a six-story building instead of a 12-story one are that the building would not have get increasingly narrow when it hit 60-feet tall; that it would not have to be set back from the property line 30 feet in the rear yards, which require two separate variances; and that the corner lot could be used at 99.7 percent capacity instead of the currently permitted 70 percent coverage.

The project is funded by Mount Sinai with $4 million coming from the state if construction can start by November.

The hospital hopes to demolish the old annex and two other buildings by August. The oxygen tank farm located in the middle of the southeastern end of the plot would be also relocated.

During construction, workers would keep the land wet to mitigate dust, which will all be blocked off by fences. Flag men will be on site to help with vehicle and pedestrian traffic during construction, which would take place from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Peterson called for quarterly meetings between neighbors and the hospital throughout the construction to insure transparency.

The board’s stipulations ask the designers consider shrubbery to mask the fencing and that it be OK’d by the community; the lighting on the new facility face away from homes; the project be coordinated with the residents and that the hospital makes “every effort to improve parking” and even consider building a parking garage.

“We have a severe underbedding problem in our community,” Astoria resident and City Council District 22 Democratic candidate Costa Constantinides said. “This is a huge win for our community.”

 

The original piece misstated Mount Sinai Queens' executive director's last name. The article has been corrected. 

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