2014-03-14 / Columnists

Official Point Of View

Ready For A New Life
By NYS State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.

My experience has been, if you want the government to do something, sometimes being a pest and keeping an issue in its face ends with a positive result. I believe it is time to be a pest about the future of the old Neponsit Health Care Center. As Katie McFadden so eloquently stated in last week’s Wave article, it has been 16 years since a serious Labor Day storm led the City of New York to evacuate the now vacant Neponsit site on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and move its almost 300 elderly residents to city hospitals – a move which led not only to a $5 million class action lawsuit from senior citizens and their families, but to the immediate and permanent shuttering of this historic health care facility.

Over the last two mayor administrations, we witnessed further neglect of this abandoned facility. But, now with a new mayor, new borough president and a renewed community effort, the revitalization and utilization of this property gets its best chance since its closure. By the time you finish reading this paragraph, I would have already spoken to a number of Mayor Bill de Blasio administrative personnel, our borough president, the NYC Economic Development Corp., the Parks Department and members of the community. Based on these early positive conversations, I get the sense that it’s time to be a pest about the old Neponsit

Health Care Center.

Under its original deed, the property can only be used for a park or health care facility. Over the years, different uses have been suggested, including proposals for luxury housing, a school, a hotel and mixed-use development. Back in 2006, when I represented the area in the New York City Council, I worked on a proposal which suggested developing the site to accommodate a health care facility and public space. Whichever direction we move, not a single constructive step forward should be taken without the input from the Neponsit residents and surrounding neighbors. Additionally, if the direction moves the property towards a use other than for a park or health care facility, I am prepared, with community approval, to work in Albany to legislatively change the restrictive covenant to allow a use acceptable to my constituents that would benefit the peninsula.

More recently, some have recommended that the complex be refashioned as a rehabilitation facility and housing for wounded veterans. As the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, I certainly believe this proposal has merit.

While there has been some question whether previous storms did serious structural damage to the complex, it seems certain that continuing to leave the property vacant will only add to its decline and make it more difficult and expensive to rehabilitate. I want to reopen the discussion on the future of this historic, meaningful property and invite the community to help envision and shape its future. As my previous Op Ed highlighted, with the abandoned Rockaway Courthouse well on its way to being reborn as a much-needed local health care facility, reclaiming and rejuvenating the Neponsit Health Care Center would be an incredible second act in community revitalization.

Let me know your ideas for this site. Call my Rockaway office at 718-318- 0702 or email me at Addabbo@nysenate.gov. Join me in being a pest about the positive future of the old Neponsit Health Care Center.

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