2006-12-08 / Editorial/Opinion


Stars And Stripes By The Sea

At a recent meeting to address the disposition of the former Neponsit Health Care Center property, Kevin Boyle asked for thought, if not immediate support, for an idea he proposed regarding the future of the Neponsit Home. As we all know, the property is deed-restricted for either a hospital or a park. Giving his idea some thought is the least we can do. As many of you know, Rockaway and Breezy Point hosted the Wounded Warriors the past two summers. Many of these soldiers, men and women, some just 20 years old, were severely hurt in Iraq or Afghanistan, and are now amputees. More soldiers are surviving war - but they are surviving with missing limbs. Our communities loved having the soldiers, and the soldiers loved their visit here. Boyle suggests that a Private-Public Partnership be formed so that the current Neponsit Facility be used a Rehabilitation and Restorative Center for wounded soldiers as they make their way back to as normal a life as possible. Such a use would satisfy the property's deed restriction, and can make all of us proud in the process. The community and elected officials have the chance to support something that will say a lot about us to the country and future generations. Furthermore, he suggested, the restored campus would offer a multi-purpose educational component. This component would address the educational needs of soldiers as they transition to civilian life or continue their military service. The school could include a nursing program and physical therapy department and provide for an employee pipeline for Queens' hospitals. It would be a complement or forerunner to CUNY by The Sea project slated for the former Rockaway courthouse on Beach 92 Street. The reconstituted facility would be an ideal place for volunteers of all ages and especially for our young people interested in community service. It would also mean a number of jobs for people living in Rockaway. A Neponsit facility for wounded soldiers would be a "boutique" (read: small) rehab center with some of the building refurbished as suites for visiting families, because families help healing. Overall, it would be a low impact project (on the neighborhood and services) yet be a profound project as well. We get to say thanks and offer help to wounded soldiers. We have a place to train nurses and physical therapists. We get to do something great. Handing the property over to some developer to build big McMansions doesn't seem quite as great.

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