A shuttered Queens hospital that has long been a neighborhood eyesore may finally find new life as a housing development.
The owners of the Parkway Hospital site in Forest Hills are heading to the city Planning Commission next week to seek a zoning change in order to build 350 units of senior, market-rate and affordable housing in two buildings on the property.
City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, who has been fighting for years to get senior housing in the area, said the project is the best use of the deteriorated hospital building, which has — at times — been scarred with graffiti and wooden boards.
The property is nestled in a densely populated residential neighborhood off the Grand Central Parkway near P.S. 196, an elementary school.
“We were worried the city would take it over and maybe put another homeless shelter there,” said Koslowitz. “Also it’s very desolate there at night, and it’s not the safest place. You want to see something developed there.”
Koslowitz also pointed out that several large residential developments planned for other parts of Forest Hills do not include any housing designated for seniors.
The city’s nod to proceed could mark the end to the drama that has surrounded the site since Parkway was marked for closure by a state commission in 2006.
Owners tried unsuccessfully to fight the closure with a series of lawsuits. The hospital’s CEO, Robert Aquino, and ex-State Sen. Carl Kruger both ended up being sentenced to prison after authorities said Kruger solicited bribes from Aquino for promises to help keep the hospital open.
The hospital closed its doors in 2008, and previous plans to build market-rate housing on the site never materialized.
Under the latest proposal, submitted to the city Planning Commission earlier this year by Auberge Grand Central LLC, the six-story building would be renovated with the addition of two floors.
Auberge, an affiliated company of development firm Jasper Venture Group, owns the property.
"Something had to be done to finally make this blemish work for the community," Eric Palatnik, a land use attorney representing Auberge, said in a statement.
The building is slated to include a mix of senior and affordable housing along with a 4,034-foot community facility.
A new 14-story structure featuring about 216 market-rate units would also be constructed on the property.
Community Board 6 signed off on the project last month, with a provision asking that “unionized workers are utilized at the location.”
“A derelict building versus senior housing is a win-win for the community,” said Frank Gulluscio, district manager of Community Board 6, which includes Forest Hills.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz declined to comment until her office issues a recommendation on the proposal.
Local activist Peter Beadle said the neighborhood has a large population of elderly people and needs affordable housing for seniors, but described the project as not “perfect.”
“The benchmarks for ‘affordability’ are set way too high and remain out of reach for many folks on lower and fixed incomes,” said Beadle, a Community Board 6 member, who emphasized he was not speaking for the board. “However, I think this specific proposal provides desperately needed housing without impacting the area negatively.”