From the Queens Chronicle:
As U.S. troop withdrawals in Iraq speed up, the question becomes who will care for those who return. And another question, prudent for thousands of veterans from Queens: Will the St. Albans’ Veterans Affairs Hospital be ready to serve them?
The answer is unclear, because a more than two-year debate on how the VA could reuse its 55-acre campus off Linden Boulevard — potentially giving a developer the right to construct housing on a 25-acre segment — has not reached a resolution. Community and veterans groups have protested the prospective land lease, angry over the VA possibly pulling money out of a packaged deal for a new medical facility on the site, sacrificing a portion of space once used exclusively by veterans.
Many concede that a new building is needed, such as [Malcolm] Smith, who pointed to the 231-bed facility’s inefficiency by calling it “a white elephant.” But much of the community does not want the 25 acres to be developed into anything other than parkland. Smith favors something along the lines of a golf course.
One developer’s proposal reportedly would bring 4,000 rental units to the area, according to Greg Mays, president of the Addisleigh Park Civic Association.
Ray Aalbue, a VA spokesman, said the search for a preferred developer is still ongoing, but admitted the St. Albans project has been “on the back burner.” After a developer is selected, the VA would then enter into negotiations and work toward a contract. The request for proposals specifically asked for low-density housing, possibly even a school if the city was willing to back the project.
The area surrounding the hospital was downzoned to prevent rampant population growth. The infrastructure in St. Albans and Hollis, including schools, utilities and transportation routes, could be “overburdened” by the rental housing a developer could erect next to the VA facility, Mays said. He also noted southeastern Queens has been listed as not having enough parks by Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative.