JAMAICA — Mary Immaculate Hospital near downtown Jamaica had become an eyesore since it went bankrupt in 2009. Many windows are broken and, neighbors said, squatters have lived inside.
Now, as the work to transform the building into market-rate apartments begins, the community hopes it will become an asset in the neighborhood that's undergoing a number of changes.
But the demolishion of the interior of the building, which started several weeks ago, has already run into problems by producing "excessive debris at the site," said Gloria Chin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, and on Monday the city issued a stop work order.
"Work cannot continue until this matter is resolved," Chin wrote in an e-mail.
Residents said that over the years the building has become home to trash and vandals. Squatters have also lived there, said Joe Moretti, 55, a database manager, who has long advocated to clean up the site.
“It’s not like a desolate area," Moretti said. "This is right near downtown Jamaica, it’s right across from Rufus King Park, it’s right near a section where there are apartment buildings.”
The former hospital is also near a recently completed building, Moda, which offers amenities such a 24/7 concierge, two roof-top decks, a gym and a lounge with free Wi-Fi, and which houses CityRib, a high-end steakhouse that opened this summer.
“If a building sits empty for so long, you need to do something to make sure that it’s not going to get vandalized and that people are not going be able to get inside,” Moretti added.
Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Borough President Helen Marshall, said that in recent months his office received a number of reports about the building's "unsightly presence," including vandalism, grafitti and squatting.
The Chetrit Group, which owns the building, did not return multiple calls seeking comment.
Yvonne Reddick, district manager for Community Board 12, said the construction will take at least a couple of years.
"There is a process that they have to go through," said Reddick, adding that the process will involve public input. She said she expects the developer to present the details of the plan to CB12 sometime in 2015.
Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Developent Corporation, a nonprofit local development organization, said he hopes the building will be fixed up soon.
“We look forward to progress soon on repurposing Mary Immaculate Hospital as a community asset," Towery said.