Today’s news:

Caritas to sell Mary Immac, St. John’s

Bankrupt and shuttered Caritas’ Health Care Inc.’s Mary Immaculate Hospital and St. John’s Queens Hospital were placed up for sale earlier this month, the Queens borough president’s office confirmed, adding insult to injury to the borough’s ailing hospital system.

Manhattan−based real estate firm CB Richard Ellis began soliciting bids May 6 for the land where St. John’s in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate in Jamaica sit, opening the door to the possibility that a developer could buy the properties and construct apartments or retail outlets in their place.

“That was the fear from the very beginning,” said Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Borough President Helen Marshall. “That fear has only been heightened.”

It was unclear as of press time when bids for the two large properties were due or how much the land was expected to bring in.

Both sites are zoned for residential development and the St. John’s site, at 90−02 Queens Blvd., includes a commercial component, which could make it attractive to a prospective developer.

“It’s right across the street from Queens Center Mall. There’s 60,000 cars a day that pass it, so there’s certainly a use there,” said Massey Knakal Realty Services Managing Director Tom Donovan, who had previously surveyed the sites for Caritas.

Borough leaders had been hoping the North Shore−Long Island Jewish Health System would make a pitch for at least one of the hospitals, but Andrews said bidding against the open market is less likely.

“LIJ had expressed some interest,” he said. “But then you’re relying on state aid, too, so it’s not definite in any way. That would be ideal. There’s no guarantee that will happen.”

CB Richard Ellis did not immediately return calls for comment on the deal.

If the pair of properties were sold for commercial or residential development, it would be a stiff blow to the Queens hospital system, which has been severely taxed by the loss of the two facilities. The burden has been extra severe in recent weeks as panicked residents have inundated emergency rooms around the borough due to the outbreak of swine flu.

“The concern is for long−term capacity and the future of those two sites is critical,” Andrews said. “The hospitals that are trying to pick up the difference have been doing an outstanding job at coping with more patients, but the borough president continues to maintain the need for new hospitals or medical facilities. If we don’t replace these hospitals with hospitals, things are only going to get worse.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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