Tag Archives: Cambria Heights

P.S. 176 in Cambria Heights to expand


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

An overcrowded P.S. 176 is set to receive a much-needed and well-deserved expansion.

The Cambria Heights elementary school is currently at 140 percent capacity, but will receive an extra 370 seats thanks to the expansion, fueled by Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor Dennis Walcott and other local officials.

“I like to see growth and things changing,” said the school’s principal of 10 years, Arlene Bartlett. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

This fall, P.S. 176 has about 820 children, averaging 27 students per class. Bartlett believes this may be due to the population boom that Cambria Heights experienced once housing in the area increased.

“Children need more space,” she said.

The engaged principal has been working with Assemblymember Barbara M. Clark and other local officials, advocating this expansion for nearly 15 years. Now, architectural plans are under way so the students can get the space they need.

Set to begin in September 2013, the expansion will involve an addition to the existing building as part of the DOE’s $11.3 billion capital plan. Occupancy is scheduled for 2016.

“This project is the latest investment we are making to our school facilities so that we can accommodate our students and help them succeed,” said Walcott. Since expansion plans are still in the very early stages, it is not yet clear just how much of the capital plan will be needed to fuel construction.

The well regarded school is said to be known for strong parent engagement and academic programming, along with support for English language learners and students with disabilities. P.S. 176 also offers the local district’s gifted and talened program, along with numerous performing arts and music programs.

Now pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, the expansion will allow the school, along with the talented and gifted program, to add a middle school reaching the eighth grade. Theoretically, the extra space will also allow class sizes to shrink.

“An extension for Public School 176 has been a battle I’ve waged for several years. The real benefactors are the teachers and the students,” said Clark.

More West Nile spraying this week; 2 confirmed cases in Queens


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of James Gathany/CDC

With two confirmed cases of West Nile virus in Queens, the borough will receive another round of pesticide spraying this week to help control increasing mosquito populations.

Parts of eight Queens neighborhoods will have pesticide applied from trucks beginning Tuesday, August 21 at 8 p.m. and lasting through 6 a.m. the next morning, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said.

This is the seventh West Nile spraying in Queens this summer. Seventy pools of standing water have tested positive for the virus in addition to the two confirmed human cases in the borough.

This year has seen the most West Nile cases throughout the country through the first two weeks of August since the disease was first detected in the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Parts of Arverne, Bayswater, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Somerville, Cambria Heights, Saint Albans, Springfield Gardens, Baisley Pond Park and Roy Wilkens Park will be sprayed.

The pesticide being used, Anvil 10 + 10, poses no health risks when used properly, but the Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

• Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. People with asthma or other respiratory conditions are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.

• Air conditioners may remain on, however, if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.

• Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using again.

• Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

 

Queens communities facing brownouts


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Several Queens communities face a voltage reduction from Con Edison due to electrical equipment problems.

The 100 degree heat has many residents blasting air conditioners to stay cool.

Con Ed said the neighborhoods affected will have a 5 percent voltage reduction.  This was done in an effort to prevent a significant outage, a spokesperson from the company said.

There are about 20 individual  outages in Queens right now according to Con Edison’s outage map.

The reduction will occur in Bellerose, Cambria Heights, Floral Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Jamaica, Jamaica Hills, Laurelton, Middle Village, Queens Village, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.

Con Edison asked customers in these areas to conserve electricity and turn off nonessential electric equipment, such as TVs, computers, air conditioners, washers, dryers, and microwaves.

To report power outages or service problems visit www.conEd.com or call 800-75-CONED (6633). When reporting an outage, customers should have their Con Edison account number available, if possible, and report whether their neighbors also have lost power.

 

Synagogue expansion faced with resistance in Cambria Heights


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

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Neighbors in Cambria Heights are fighting the proposed expansion of a popular Orthodox Jewish synagogue — citing rude worshipers and an increase in disturbances.

The Ohel Chabad Lubavitch plans to build a structure in its backyard expanding the main building and connecting four nearby houses, which it owns, to create additional space for worship and overnight stays since followers can’t drive home on Sabbath.

Hundreds of congregants visit the synagogue daily to pray and visit the grave of the former leader, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, and his father-in-law Rabbi Yosef Schneerson, which is located in the Montefiore Cemetery adjacent to the buildings. On the anniversary of Schneerson’s passing that number could be over 30,000 visitors, according to Community Board 13 District Manager Lawrence McClean.

There is currently an insulated tent behind the house that connects the four houses and leads to the grave. The plan will expand this and make the structure permanent.

However, residents and community leaders are standing firm against it.

“This is a residential area,” said Ann Miller, who has lived in the neighborhood for 32 years. “Our quality of life is affected.”

Community members like Miller allege that by creating the expanded building the number of congregants will balloon, creating piles of trash and traffic congestion as followers look to park their cars in the blocks surrounding the synagogue.

The community and the synagogue have had a rocky relationship in past years.

McClean said residents have found followers parked in their driveways and scraps of trash on their lawns after services and events.

“The community was so badly trashed in the early days that they have emotional scar tissue,” McClean said.

Residents are concerned that the expansion will amplify problems with an increase in the population and hope the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), which has the final say, blocks the synagogue from obtaining a variance to bypass residential zoning rules.

The upcoming public hearing on May 15 will be the fifth time the BSA will meet about the expansion and McClean thinks this is a result of the panel not trusting the plan. “Ninety percent of the time the BSA approves an applicant, but because they’ve spent so much time they are waiting for the Ohel Chabad to work with the community,” McClean said. “The perception is that they have not been working with the community.”

Although many residents are against the expansion, The Courier found a resident living nearby who wasn’t bothered by it.

“I believe that everyone should be able to practice their religion. There are so many churches in this neighborhood alone. To me it’s a welcome change.”

Abba Refson, director of the Ohel Chabad, refused to answer a reporter’s questions, saying, “because the case is pending we don’t want to comment at this time.”

 

Rockaway Park charter school might close


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The final dismissal bell may soon ring for six underperforming charter schools in the city — including one school in Queens.

According to officials, Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School in Rockaway Park joins 46 other struggling schools on the list for potential closures released by the Department of Education (DOE) on November 2. Of the 46 schools facing the ax, 24 are elementary and middle schools, 17 are high schools and six are charter schools.

Schools become candidates for the chopping block if they have warranted a failing grade on the most recent progress report or if they’ve received a “C” for three consecutive years. Schools also qualify for closure if they have received a rating of “Underdeveloped” on the most recent Quality Review or if they were identified as “Persistently Lowest Achieving” (PLA) by the State Education Department.

“The goal of these discussions is to gain a better understanding of where weaknesses in their educational strategy lie and why they are struggling,” said Deputy Schools Chancellor Marc Sternberg. “We’ll take the feedback into consideration as we explore options to improve performance and support student success, and continue to work with all of our schools to ensure that students have access to high quality options.”

According to DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas, Peninsula Preparatory is being considered for closure for many reasons. He said besides the fact that the charter school’s renewal is coming up this year — which puts the school under close examination — Peninsula Preparatory is not on track to meet set goals. He said the school also has a higher than average teacher turnover rate, which means that teachers are frequently leaving the school after brief terms — causing the school to replace teachers often.

Peninsula Preparatory received a “C” on the last two progress reports.

“We’re following our plan of action to improve student achievement, and we’re doing the best that we can,” said Principal Ericka Wala. “We’ll see how it unfolds. I feel good about the progress we’ve made so far.”

The list of schools put on notice has doubled since September, when 20 public elementary and middle schools in the city were targeted for closure, including two elementary schools in Queens — P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott in Woodmere and P.S. 181 Brookfield in Springfield Gardens.

P.S. 215 in Woodmere received an “F” on the most recent progress report and P.S. 181 in Springfield Gardens received a “D.” The schools each performed one grade worse than they did on last year’s progress report. P.S. 215 received a “D” on last year’s report, while P.S. 181 received a “C.”

Soon after September — following the release of high school progress reports — Law, Government and Community Service High School in Cambria Heights also found its way to the constantly-expanding list of schools at risk of termination. The school scored the lowest in the borough this year, with an overall total score of 40.9 percent. It has received a “D” this year and the last, and falls in the bottom 6.7 percentile of city high schools.

But according to DOE officials, decisions to close any school have not been made yet.

For the first time, the DOE has instated an “early engagement process” for charter schools in which DOE and school officials remain in “an ongoing conversation and discussion about areas that schools are doing well in and are not doing well in,” Thomas said.

Any decisions on which schools will close will not come until mid-December at the earliest.

“This isn’t a list of schools to close — it’s just a list of schools that are struggling,” Thomas said. “We take a close look at them to see if they can do better in the future. We always know that they can do better.”

Last year’s list included 12 Queens schools — none of which were closed.

Queens schools score on DOE progress reports


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Students at The Academy of Finance and Enterprise spend the last two periods of the day participating in a “virtual enterprise,” trading stocks and being the CEO of their own company.

Queens high schools can hang their good report cards on the fridge.

This year, according to the Department of Education’s (DOE) annual high school progress report, 19 high schools in Queens received the coveted “A” letter grade, and there were no failing schools in the borough.

The annual report awards public high schools letter grades from “A” to “F” based on student progress toward graduation, performance on standardized tests and coursework and student attendance. They also take into account surveys from parents, students and teachers about their schools and the academic progress made with students with disabilities.

New this year, the report measures how many students in each high school perform well in advanced courses and go on to enroll in college, as well as the progress and graduation rates of black and Latino male students.

The Academy of Finance and Enterprise in Long Island City scored the highest in the borough with a grade of 89.5 percent. The top scoring grade places the school in the top 98.5 percentile of all surveyed high schools in the city.

“This couldn’t have happened if the teachers, staff and students didn’t come together to make sure they succeed,” said Assistant Principal Victoria Armano. “We are a caring community who treats all our children with respect. We provide them with extra support. We want them to get their diploma and go beyond.”
Student Sylwia Baj is not surprised at her school’s success. The senior said her school has done a good job preparing her for the real world.

“For juniors specifically, the school strives to prepare us for the SATs. There are a lot of extra opportunities for us to get help in school,” she said.
Still, not all schools made the grade.

The Law, Government and Community Service High School in Cambria Heights was the lowest scoring school, with an overall total score of 40.9 percent. The school received a “D” and falls in the bottom 6.7 percentile of city high schools.

“It’s not really surprising,” said Malik, a senior who is transferring out of the school. “I feel like the teachers could work a little bit harder with the kids. I don’t think they show us enough attention. They let us do a lot of other stuff in class instead of work. I’m not coming back.”
Students from Humanities and the Arts High School — who share the same Campus Magnet High School building with students from Law and Government — said the score was expected.

“They don’t do any work. They don’t go to class. They stay in the hallway all the time,” said Malcolm, a senior at Humanities and the Arts. “There are also a lot of fights. It’s pretty obvious that it’s not a good school, and once you go to the school, you find out it’s horrible.”
Officials from the high school declined to comment.

Among the other five schools that received a “D” are Flushing High School, Richmond Hill High School, August Martin High School in Jamaica, Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village and Pan American International High School in Elmhurst.

According to data from the DOE, of the 54 high schools surveyed this year, 16 high schools in Queens earned a “B” and 13 received a “C.”
For more information or to find a specific school’s progress report, visit http://schools.nyc.gov/ProgressReport.