Community Board 7 Marathon Session: KO’s New High School . . . Ok’s Whitestone Expwy. Bridge

By Queens Courier Staff |

Bleary-eyed C.B. 7 members ended a hotly-fought marathon SRO session that ranged from the rejection of an 800-student high school in Auburndale to approved reconstruction of the $93 million Whitestone Expwy. bridge.
During Monday’s five-hour talk-a-thon in the Union Plaza Nursing Home, busy Board members also approved a group home in west Flushing, okayed a zoning variance for a gasoline station, and rejected a news stand in downtown Flushing.
Facing overwhelming community disapproval, C.B. 7 rejected, by a lopsided 34 to 3 vote, a School Construction Authority (SCA) proposal to construct a $40 million high school between 172 St. and Auburndale Lane, just off Station Rd. Since the community board’s role is advisory, the SCA may still legally proceed with its program to build a school on this site, and will conduct environmental boring tests on this site next week.
The surprise-packed session featured two school principals (Athena Galitsis and William Rivera) and a teacher (Eileen Smith) who spoke out against the school. No locally-elected official spoke for or against the proposed 100,000 square-foot project.
Local opponents’ arguments mirrored the report issued by C.B. 7’s site selection committee which presented serious logistical roadblocks concerning health, environmental, traffic safety and congestion, as well as noise problems from the adjacent L.I.R.R.
Susan Nofi and Rose Demaio gave chilling accounts of the school site’s alarming high pollution content. Nofi called for an immediate inspection by the City’s Environmental Protection Agency and Demaio cited eight cases of cancer among local residents.
On-site inspections by the C.B. 7 also revealed inadequate sidewalks, damaged sewers, inadequate street lighting, no traffic lights or crosswalks, potential need for new sanitary and storm sewers, inadequate mass transportation, as well as charges that the previous tenant had handled hazardous material on the proposed school site.
SCA representatives assured board members that the appropriate City agencies would become directly involved as soon as the site was legislatively approved. The City DOT would be called in to monitor the need for appropriate traffic controls, street lighting, roadway and sidewalk construction. The DEP would inspect and research the need for additional water and sewer lines and repair street sewers wherever necessary.
Refusing to comment on the meeting’s outcome, SCA spokesperson Debra Perry said that the purpose of a public hearing is to inform residents of a community that a project is under consideration in their neighborhood. "It provides the residents with an opportunity," she said, "to learn about the project and to voice their concerns."
After most of the audience had left, the board approved the application of the Professional Services Center for Handicapped (PFCFH) to establish a residence for seven mild-to-moderately retarded adults in a residence at 143-50 Beech Ave., Flushing. Despite the overwhelmingly favorable 24 to 2 vote, board members complained that community notification circulars were not properly distributed to residents.
Later in the evening, C.B. 7 members approved reconstruction of the complex spaghetti-laned junction of the Whitestone Expwy., Van Wyck Expwy., Northern and Astoria Blvd., and the Grand Central Pkwy. The approved plan designed to reduce inter-lane weaving has caused the traffic accident rate on this section of the bridge to soar 100 percent more than the state highway average.
Costing $93 million, the project is in the preliminary design stage, awaiting community and local legislative approvals.
The new design will eliminate inter-lane weaving by creating a new exit ramp into Linden Pl. Project plans also call for installation of a new electrical system as well as new signs, sewers and highway lighting.
By the meeting’s closing time at 11:45, the audience had shrunk from 300 to 30.