Today’s news:

St. Mary’s begins $114M expansion

After years of planning and tensions with the nearby community, St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital broke ground last week on its facility expansion plan.

Hospital administrators, staff and elected officials gathered at the site where a new $114 million pavilion will go up in approximately two years. The 60-year-old, U-shaped building has been in need of more space to take care of its young patients since it handles more than 100 cases a day, according to administrators.

Despite some concerns from residents over noise and parking problems, the hospital is working to see that everyone’s needs are served, said Jeffrey Frerichs, the president and chief executive officer of St. Mary’s Healthcare system.

“St. Mary’s unique care provides them with a better quality of life,” he said of the children.

The project will add several new amenities to the hospital, which is primarily used for rehabilitation efforts.

A new rehab wing with new equipment will be built and there will be a permanent indoor school for the students at PS 23Q, the on-site public school for the patients. In the past, they conducted their studies in temporary trailers.

There will also be an expanded exterior entrance that will accommodate ambulances, visitors and buses and 58 new parking spots. The outdoor areas will have a new walking track, sidewalks and a road sign. The expansion does not include an increase in beds but will bring in hundreds of jobs, the hospital staff said.

Stephen Brent Wells, chairman of St. Mary’s board of directors, said several years of planning went into the pavilion to give the young patients every possible advantage.

“At St. Mary’s, we expose these children to the world. We let them soar,” he said.

But not everyone is happy about the construction. A newly formed Bayside civic group, Weeks Woodlands Association, has filed a lawsuit against St. Mary’s, claiming the expansion is illegal and would hinder residents’ quality of life due to excessive noise, pollution and traffic.

Frerichs said the construction would continue despite the lawsuit and took a shot against the civic by citing the large number of supporters who came to the groundbreaking, including Borough President Helen Marshall, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and City Councilmen Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).

“From the crowd and turnout today, one thing is clear: We have them greatly outnumbered,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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