Official Point Of View
A new boardwalk. Continued ferry service. Replenished beaches. Build It Back funds for our victims of Sandy. These and other issues have been the primary discussions of most Rockaway residents and community groups. There is another health related project lurking in the background, that I would like to highlight and ensure its progress – The Rockaway Courthouse.
Eighty years ago, when judges, attorneys and legal clients routinely walked the halls of the Rockaway Courthouse on Beach Channel Drive, they probably never would have imagined that this once-majestic building would one day trade in its court dockets for medical diagnostics. But with ambitious plans now in place to transform this crumbling former bastion of jurisprudence into a needed health care facility by 2015, that’s exactly what we have coming our way.
I am personally very pleased that progress is being made to make the Rockaway Ambulatory Surgical Center a reality in both a building that has long been in need of repair and in a community that has suffered tremendous losses in access to medical resources in recent years. The closure of Peninsula Hospital in 2012, leaving St. John’s Episcopal Hospital the only major community medical facility in the area, was and continues to be a severe blow to local residents in need of emergency services and other health care.
Given that the Rockaway Courthouse has been closed for four decades, this welcome transformation has been a long time coming and one that I intend on attending to. I remember seeing potential even back when I represented the area in the New York City Council. I saw the courthouse as more than just an historic, three-story, limestone and marble eyesore, but a building with great potential that could have a meaningful use for our people. The Courthouse was considered over the years as a site for a town hall, an office building, and as a seaside campus for the City University of New York – all ideas which ultimately, for any number of reasons, were not realized.
All in all, I believe the plan by Harmony Group to reclaim, restore and transform the Courthouse into a desperately needed medical facility – investing $10 million of its own funds into a severely dilapidated site – is the right thing to do at the right time. According to the Harmony Group, the new health center, in which construction is expected to break ground this year, will offer four operating rooms, ophthalmology, urology, obstetrics, gynecology and orthopedic care. I will urge that the approximately 45 new jobs created by the new facility be filled by qualified local residents. The new facility will not, of course, take all of the pressure off of St. John’s Hospital and other area health care sites and clinics, but it will certainly help.
Most importantly, Rockaway residents will have expanded opportunities to safeguard their health and get the care they need and deserve.
As the State Senator in the district where the vacant courthouse now sits, I welcome the opening of the Rockaway Ambulatory Surgical Center. I look forward to working with the new facility’s owners and the community at large to help improve the health and welfare of my constituents, who have had more than their share of challenges in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and who are continuing the struggle to rebuild their lives. While there is still much work to be done to enable the Rockaway Peninsula and its people to fully heal from the devastation they have suffered, the promise of a new medical facility on the horizon is a significant step forward in our ongoing recovery and rebuilding efforts. For any updates on the progress of the Rockaway Ambulatory Surgical Center, please call my Rockaway office located at 88- 08 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, 718-318-0702.