The historic T Building—of the Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica—may include a community facility as part of its redevelopment. At least, that’s what Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) hinted at a recent town hall meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio in Briarwood.
Community Board 8 has been discussing plans for the vacant T Building with the developers, Dunn Development, and owners, New York City Health + Hospitals. While the discussion has mostly been focused on Dunn Development’s more divisive proposal to build supportive housing at the site, CB 8 has also been trying to secure space for some sort of a community facility to serve the area. The old T Building is in Jamaica, near Parsons Boulevard and Goethals Avenue and across the street from the Parkway Village Co-ops.
“Those who want to see the space available for a community center, I think will be very pleased in the coming days,” Lancman said, responding to a question about the building during the town hall. “Who will fill that space and what programming they will have, that remains for them to figure out.”
Josh Levitt, a spokesman for Lancman, declined to offer specifics about the facility, but confirmed that there would be an announcement on the issue at some point before the holidays.
Kevin Forrestal, a member of Community Board 8, said that he was unaware of what Lancman could have in mind for the space. He explained that there had always been talks of including a community facility as part of the development, but the board had requested that the space be provided to a community center free of charge. Possible services could include a doctor’s office, day care, after-school programming, senior center or other such services.
“The community board asked that [a community facility] be provided for various community services at no charge to whoever will be running it, so it would be a better facility,” he said. “There were outreaches to various community organizations and there was an expression of interest. I don’t know whether that effort will be recognized with whatever Rory Lancman comes up with or not.”
He added that Dunn Development, which could not be reached for comment, had previously indicated that the board’s requests could be possible.
The T Building, which opened in 1941, is the old tuberculosis hospital of the Queens Hospital Center, but its use as a medical facility declined over the years. Now, it sits in disrepair and the community has long discussed what to do with it. In 2014, CB 8 voted to demolish the building, beginning a fight by preservationists to save it for its historical value.
The latest plans by Dunn Development would include 75 supportive housing units that would provide space for homeless individuals with mental illness, along with more than 100 low- and moderate-income housing units. Many in the community, especially in the neighboring Parkway Village, have expressed concerns about safety—especially with the nearby Par Central Motor Inn operating as a controversial homeless center. At the town hall, the mayor’s administration indicated that the motel would stop housing the homeless “sooner rather than later.”
Others, including Forrestal and others from Community Board 8, support the proposal, arguing that Dunn Development has a history of running such facilities effectively.
The project would have to be approved by the City Council, which historically votes on these projects in line with the opinion of the local council member—in this case, Lancman. Whether the impending announcement signals Lancman’s support for the project has yet to be seen.