Though there was little ground to break elected officials and leaders of the Mount Sinai Health System gathered under a big white tent on Monday to celebrate the groundbreaking for the medical center’s Queens expansion project at 30th Avenue and Crescent Street in Astoria.
Just behind the podium, as an audience of 100 or so sat listening to reminiscent tales of the hospital once known as Astoria General, stood a mountainous pile of rubble and debris with a crane sitting on top like an angel on a Christmas tree.
The demolished building would soon operate as an emergency department multi-specialty medical practice offering primary care, specialty care and urgent care and other diagnostic and laboratory services.
“Today’s groundbreaking signifies more than just a new building for our hospital,” said Caryn Schwab, executive director of Mount Sinai Queens. “With state-of-the-art operating rooms, an expanded emergency department, a full array of medical offices, on-site outpatient imaging and new elevators that will allow for the better flow of patients and staff, the new Mount Sinai Queens will allow us to address the shift to outpatient care and improve the overall health of our community.
“I’m grateful to Mount Sinai leadership, our elected officials, and the community partners with whom we worked most closely to make this project a reality.”
Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and former Council Speaker Peter Vallone recalled the numerous times their loved ones or they themselves relied on the hospital and the supportive staff who helped them get through times of loss.
“The social workers, the doctors, just everyone was so good to us when my stepfather was here,” Van Bramer said. “And even though he is not alive to say so, I know he, my mother and I are grateful to everyone here.”
“When I was in a very bad accident, the EMS workers asked where I wanted to go and I told them here,” Vallone Sr. said. “I told them I wanted to go here and they kept saying ‘Mr. Speaker, you can go anywhere, we just really need to get you to a hospital,’ and I told them, ‘The only hospital I want to go to is right here.’”
The rebuilding process began in August and is expected to be complete in 2016.
According to Mount Sinai, the expansion project will generate at least 460 construction-related jobs, 340 additional related jobs, and add approximately $166 million to the local economy.
About 160 staff jobs are also expected to be created at Mount Sinai Queens once the project is completed.
“Mount Sinai Queens has always been a vital part of the communities it serves, and its physicians, nurses and staff will continue to provide the highest levels of care,” said Kenneth Davis, president and CEO of Mount Sinai Health System.
“In just a few more years, this part of Queens will be home to a state-of-the-art healthcare institution that will further enhance the quality of care and improve patient outcomes.”
After a brief photo-op, guests were given flutes of sparkling cider for a toast to the future of Mount Sinai Queens.