Washington, D.C. – United States Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, and Congressman Gregory Meeks announced today that after a meeting with officials from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) yesterday, the VA has decided to abandon its plan to allow private development at the Veterans’ Facility at St. Albans. The VA, which had planned to lease out nearly half the space at the St. Albans veterans’ home for private residential and commercial development, folded under pressure from Schumer, Gillibrand, and Meeks office and that of local veterans, who had opposed the plan since its inception two years ago. Schumer, Gillibrand, and Meeks heralded the announcement today, saying it was a victory for the community, and urged the V.A. to finally turn the facility into a full service hospital that local veterans need and deserve.
“Ding dong, this plan is dead,” said Schumer. “After years of pressure from our offices, local veterans, and community members, the VA has finally agreed to do the right thing and abandoned their plan to lease significant portions of the St. Albans Veterans Facility. This decision will allow the VA to continue to provide quality care to area veterans, and I pledge that, at a time when more and more of our troops return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, we will double down on our efforts to bring a full service V.A. hospital to St. Albans.”
“I am pleased the VA made the right call in terminating these plans to alter Saint Albans,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This decision will ensure that we maintain existing services and facilities and the hospital and that the entire sight remains dedicated to serving our veterans – as it should.”
“I am pleased that the VA has made the decision to stop the EUL process. As I stated on the house floor last week when my amendment passed, the VA should respond to the needs of the veterans and the calls from the community to stop the process – it’s the right thing to do,” said Congressman Meeks.
The VA began targeting the St. Albans Facility for redevelopment two years ago, proposing to lease 25 of the facility’s 55 acres to private developers so they could develop housing and commercial projects on the property. As a result, veterans in Queens, as well as in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, who frequently used the St. Albans facility, would have had to travel close to an hour to reach the nearest full service VA hospital. In addition, the resulting development would have placed a significant burden on the local community.
From its inspection, Schumer, Gillibrand and Meeks fought the plan, working with the local community to pressure VA Secretary Shineski to abandon the proposal. They argued that instead of forcing veterans to travel further to receive care, that the VA should instead commit to constructing and developing a full service hospital, a women’s domiciliary and a state of the art nursing home so the local veterans could receive the best possible care as close to home as possible. Over the last two years, Schumer, Gillibrand, and Meeks have held a number of meetings with Shineski and the community in order to stop the development proposal and urge the VA to build a full service hospital there.
Schumer, Gillibrand and Meeks heralded the VA’s announcement to abandon plans to redevelop St. Albans, and in the wake of this victory for the community, urged the VA to build a full service hospital at St. Albans instead.