By TRONE DOWD
In an effort to install a new diversity initiative, Jamaica Estates retirement home Hillside Manor has been shuffling its residents, upsetting family members who say that the change is abrupt and unnecessary.
Family members were notified of the change in late July through a letter sent in the mail. The Queens Tribune obtained the letter from the daughter of one of the residents who lives at the nursing home.
“The purpose of this letter is to inform you of a newly developed and soon to be implemented resident cultural/ethnic program at Hillside Manor Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center that will affect your current living arrangement,” the letter reads.
According to the letter, the cultural program is aimed at Indian, Guyanese and Bengali residents.
“Our surrounding communities in Queens are very ethnically diverse,” the letter continues. “Administration has determined that we currently are not fully meeting the cultural [and] ethnic needs of these communities after residents of these ethnic backgrounds are admitted to our facility.”
To adhere to the new standard, the facility’s 11th floor is being completely overhauled to accommodate the new plans, displacing nearly 30 residents across 23 rooms by as early as September. Hillside Manor’s administration made it clear that they want to ensure that the comfort of their residents is considered during the move.
“We understand change of this nature can be difficult, but we will do everything possible to ease the process,” the letter read.
But families and residents are saying that the way the nursing home handled the move is unacceptable. Some residents have gone as far as to refuse relocation.
Candace Prince-Modeste, whose father has resided at Hillside Manor for more than six years, told the Queens Tribune that her main issue with the move is the lack of communication up until the very last minute.
“They changed the rules midstream,” Prince-Modeste said. “If we had come into the facility knowing that it wasn’t set up in a particular way, then that’s one thing. It’s hard to fight or disagree with that. But the way it’s currently set up, residents are organized according to their medical needs.”
Prince-Modeste said that the 11th-floor residents are able to be more independent than some of the others who stay there. The nurses who work with residents are distributed according to their skill and whom they need to work with.
She also pointed out that the idea of adding the program strikes her as redundant, considering that Hillside Manor has always been effective at ensuring that the cultural traditions and other needs of all residents were met without any residential reshuffling.
“If you’re a Jewish person, they have folks from synongauges come in to do Jewish service,” she said. “If you’re a Methodist, they have Methodists come in. If you want to play with cats and dogs, they bring in folks from local animal shelters or animal entities come in with pets. If you want to do knitting, there’s a knitting program. They bring everything in there and it’s open and available to everyone. If you want to take advantage of it you can—if you don’t, then you don’t. What that has to do with where you are housed in the building, it doesn’t make sense.”
Prince-Modeste is currently Councilman I. Daneek Miller’s (D-St. Albans) chief of staff. She told the Queens Tribune that while she is fortunate enough to voice her father’s dissatisfaction on the matter, she knows that many other residents are not as lucky.
“This issue isn’t about my father as an individual,” she said. “Where he is now is an option that we chose to make in terms of his care. I could take him out tomorrow if I wanted to. But there are folks there who probably don’t have that choice, and they probably don’t have the same access to resources that could help them fight this new policy the way I do. This is about righting a wrong, and whatever comes of this, I hope that everyone can benefit from it.”
She mentioned that she reached out to both Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) and state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). Comrie’s office said that it was following up with Hillside Manor to get further details on the situation.
The Queens Tribune reached out to Hillside Manor’s administration several times throughout the week and did not receive a response.