Monday, June 21, 2010

Private Development of St. Albans Angers Queens Veterans - Say They Were Left Out of Decision by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News

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A developer selected to build a high-tech veterans center in Queens revealed plans on Friday to place new medical facilities next to housing and green space, riling veterans groups whose demands they say were disregarded.

The Daily News learned the plans of developer St. Albans Village LLC - run by a prominent local pastor - after five years of rumors about the fate of the site at 179th St. and Linden Blvd.

Veterans groups had called for a hospice and a women's shelter. They also wanted the entire plot to remain veterans property, instead of allowing a private group develop 25 of 55 acres.

The Rev. Edwin Reed, pastor of Morris Brown AME Church in South Ozone Park, said he will listen to the veterans' concerns. But he said his group will stick with the federal government's original call for a 221-bed facility.

"I'm really ticked off," said Pat Toro, president of the Queens chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America. "They didn't pay attention to any of the things we wanted."

Reed previously served as a minister at Greater Allen AME Cathedral. Its pastor, the Rev. Floyd Flake, was embroiled in controversy this year over ethical problems relating to his group's winning bid to run an Aqueduct racino.

Reed insisted Flake is not involved in the St. Albans plans.

"I am not one to placate people by listening," Reed said. "I like to solve problems if there are real problems. But I also have to make sure we do well by serving the Veterans Administration and the veterans themselves and the community."

Reed added his group will undertake a "feasibility study" to determine whether retail stores or a grocery store would be appropriate for the site.

"There will be many things that will be discussed and analyzed," Reed said.

Critics slammed the secretiveness surrounding the plans.

"Nobody's told us squat," said John Rowan, national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America. "Now all of a sudden they've got a developer after this thing has been languishing for years."

Rowan also questioned the timing of the announcement on a Friday, figuring they wanted to bury the story at the end of the weekly news cycle.

"It's the typical time that government hides stuff they don't want to get covered," Rowan contended.