Whitestone residents are upset they weren’t involved in the decision process after hearing rumors of a school coming to an abandoned six-acre lot in the heart of their community.
After residents had seen city employees and School Construction Authority (SCA) surveyors measuring a vacant lot located along 150th Street and 5th Avenue, they began to ask questions and then heard of a potential school being proposed for the site.
Upset by the lack of information, City Council District 19 candidate Paul Vallone gathered with community leaders and residents on Wednesday, October 2 to speak out against the SCA’s “unilateral site selection powers,” present them with other sites for the school, and let the SCA know the community wants to be involved.
“It’s the process we are upset with,” said Vallone. “No one is going to tell you we don’t need a school. We need a school. It’s just the location that’s a problem.”
Vallone said the lot would not be fit for a school because there are no major streets and no public transportation nearby.
The lot is in the middle of a foreclosure action by OneWest Bank, which was granted legal permission to clean and maintain the abandoned vacant property last year after it stood neglected by owner Whitestone Jewels.
State Senator Tony Avella said he has spoken to the Department of Education and there is no official proposal to bring a school to that location. He has also let the DOE know the community does not want a school at the site.
“I stand with the community to not use this site for the school, but the rally seems premature,” said Avella. “There’s no proposal. It’s all just rumor.”
Both Vallone and Avella believe the site would serve better as an open park space where children could participate in recreational sports.
According to DOE spokesperson David Pena, there has been no official decision made to place a school at the Whitestone site.
“As we do throughout the city, we always take preliminary surveys of areas where we have identified a need for new school construction,” said Pena. “This is just one area in the city we are surveying. We go through a public process before there is any approval on a particular site.”
The SCA did not respond as of press time.
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