United We Must Stand
While leaving the Knights of Columbus after the public forum on the closing of Peninsula Hospital Center – the meeting Commissioner Shah unceremoniously left hours earlier – I witnessed a car accident at the intersection of Beach 91 Street and Rockaway Freeway. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if someone was. Would St. John’s Episcopal have been able to accommodate the victims? What if they were diverted to Jamaica?
Google Maps suggests the 11.3 mile drive from the scene of the accident to Jamaica Hospital takes 18 minutes. This “suggested route” involves the Cross Bay Bridge, the Belt Parkway, and the Van Wyck Expressway. I frequently make a similar commute. It does not take 18 minutes. The Van Wyck Expressway is seemingly jammed 24 hours a day. You’re lucky to make it half a mile in 18 minutes.
There have already been horror stories about transporting patients to Jamaica Hospital. Now that the summer months are here, it will only get worse. Those who went to the beach on Memorial Day saw how incredibly crowded it was. Last year, more than 3.6 million people visited Rockaway Beach during the summer. Heat strokes, lacerations, and near drownings are commonplace. St. John’s is an essential facility, but it cannot handle the load by itself. To put it simply, one hospital is not enough to serve the entire peninsula. Perhaps if Commissioner Shah would have stayed the course, he would have learned more about the unique needs of the Rockaways. Then again, the lifeless expression he wore for the duration of his short visit seemed to suggest he wasn’t very concerned.
As difficult as it may be, we can’t afford to get discouraged now. We have to continue to put pressure on officials demanding that Peninsula Hospital Center be reopened.
Speaking of pressure, I recently joined the protests supported by various churches of a liquor store opening across the street from Redfern Houses. The community recognizes the owner’s right to open a liquor store, but urges it does not want one there. One pastor even offered to help find the owner a different location. I spoke with residents who said they appreciated new business in the area, but suggested a meat market or a bakery instead.
Meanwhile, the owners are unwilling to budge.
Despite the protests, they insist on opening the liquor store across from Redfern.
I’m hopeful they will soon realize the people will not tolerate it. In these times, it’s imperative for members of the community to stand together and let our voices be heard.