As many Americans prepared to celebrate Memorial Day, the faculty at James J. Peters VA Medical Center in Kingsbridge spent the morning of Thursday, May 25, paying tribute to America’s military with the groundbreaking for a new veteran facility.
Two 16-unit residential buildings will be erected on hospital grounds courtesy of the Fischer House Foundation.
The foundation has made a name for itself creating transitional housing for veterans and their families at VA facilities across the country, but Fischer House CEO Kenneth Fischer said this project – the first in the city – was special, since he grew up in nearby Riverdale.
“Being a native son of the Bronx, I’d be lying if I said this one didn’t mean a little more to me and my family,” Fischer told the patriotic crowd gathered under a large tent as rain fell hard across the borough.
The new facilities will open up the hospital’s services to veterans outside the city, he explained.
“These two Fischer houses will now serve not just veterans from the metropolitan area, but veterans from as far away as New England, can get the care the Peters VA should be better known for,” Fischer said. “The work that goes on here is so special.”
The two buildings provide a free home away from home for families of veterans receiving treatment at the hospital.
The facilities are estimated to cost approximately $14 million, and are slated to open in 2018.
The Fischer House program was started in 1990 by Fischer’s father, Zachary Fischer, a New York developer.
The organization has provided around seven million days of free lodging to more than 300,000 military families, saving vets and their families more than $360 million in travel expenses.
Delta Airlines, a long-time contributor to the program, donated $1 million to the Bronx project.
The project will create a home-away-from-home for families receiving medical care, said James J. Peters hospital director Dr. Erik Langhoff.
“Thank you for your many sacrifices that you and your families have made on behalf of this country,” Langhoff said.
Holding the event on the eve of Memorial Day was especially fitting, he noted.
“The service and sacrifice of our fallen warriors and the care and support for those who return from war are forever linked through the American spirit,” Langhoff said. “And through VAs everywhere, who care for those who have gone into battle.”
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said veterans were a priority as the borough was seeing a renaissance, and recalled a fateful veteran’s breakfast in which keynote speaker Ken Fischer told him the Bronx would get its first Fischer Houses.
He thanked Fischer for doing what he called God’s work, and asked those on hand to remember the real reason for the upcoming holiday.
“Don’t just make this about barbecues and hamburgers and hot dogs or beer,” Diaz said. “There’s a reason we are able to celebrate this weekend, and every other weekend this summer season.”