Tag Archives: Community Education Council District 24

Petition: turn proposed Glendale homeless shelter site into a school

| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo by Jeff Stone

A petition has been started to turn the proposed homeless shelter site on Cooper Avenue into an educational facility to better accommodate the overcrowded School District 24.

“We are not happy about the shelter,” Kathy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association, said at a Community Education Council meeting on Tuesday. “We are asking the DOE to take a look at the location of Cooper Avenue and the two adjoining properties [for a possible school].”

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

All residents at the meeting were urged to sign the petition, which was started by residents of Glendale and Middle Village, with the help of the Glendale Civic Association, asking for a school in the already over-saturated district. Residents believe that turning the site into a specialized school that runs from pre-K to high school would be the optimal usage for the site, whereas if it were turned into a homeless shelter, the child-to-school ratio in the district would grow even more.

“I just cannot comprehend the logistics,” said Nick Comaianni, president of the Community Education Council for District 24. “Doesn’t the city take a look at this?”

A “green light” was given for human habitation of the land after concerns were voiced about a former chemical complex on the site, according to the petition.

The petition urges the the city instead to acquire the site and build an educational complex there, citing a “dire need of school seats for children of District 24, the most overcrowded school district in NYC.”

“The location would serve as a good site to alleviate problems already present in District 24,” Masi said. “Building a school would be a great alternative for that site.”


Dmytro Fedkowskyj mulling a run against Assemblymember Marge Markey

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Dominick Totino Photography

There may be a showdown in the Democratic primary race for Assembly District 30 later this year.

Middle Village resident Dmytro Fedkowskyj, a former member of the city’s Panel for Education Policy (PEP), which serves to improve the welfare of schools and students in the city, is giving a lot of thought about running against incumbent Marge Markey.

“I had many people come up to me and ask me, ‘what are you going to do now? You’ve tackled and handled that job so well, why don’t you run for office,’” Fedkowskyj said, referring to his time on the PEP.

District 30 is comprised of Maspeth, Woodside and parts of Long Island City, Middle Village, Astoria and Sunnyside.

Fedkowskyj, an accountant and father of three, was a member of the PEP for five years, since former Borough President Helen Marshall appointed him in 2008.

He advocated for Queens students and parents in the position, until he resigned on December 31, as Marshall left office.

Former colleagues say what makes Fedkowskyj special is his ability to draw people together.

A graduate of Grover Cleveland High School, Fedkowskyj is an alum of SUNY Empire State College. He started his community outreach with Community Education Council District 24 in 2004. He served as chair of the School Construction and Zoning Committee before he was appointed to the PEP. Fedkowskyj also served as a trustee for the city’s Board of Education Retirement System from 2008 to 2013.

Despite his experience, challenging Markey, who has held office since 1998, may be difficult. Markey has won at least 60 percent of votes in her last three elections against Republican opponents. But given that the area is mostly Democratic, Fedkowskyj criticized her wins.

“In an Assembly district that holds almost 2-1 Democrat over Republican voters, one has to question why she hasn’t won a general election by a larger margin,” Fedkowskyj said. “Maybe voters are just looking for change.”

Michael Armstrong, a spokesperson for Markey, said that she will run for re-election, but didn’t comment on Fedkowskyj.

Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Marge Markey



Woodside parents want bus service for their kids

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Parents of P.S. 229 are seeing red, claiming the Department of Education (DOE) is attempting to save some green by endangering their children and denying them yellow bus service.

Residents of the Big Six Towers in Woodside are furious with the DOE for rejecting a hazard variance for their children who are forced to cross a dangerous intersection on their way to and from school each day.

Parents believe the threat warrants an exception to the DOE’s policy, which does not provide school bus service to children in grades three through six if they live within a mile of school.

“I’m outraged. They are pretty much saying that my daughter’s life is not worth $100,000, because that’s what I’ve been told is the magic number to have a bus go to and from a school all year,” said Michelle Kates, who drives her fourth grader to P.S. 229 each day. “To say that we don’t have a hazard is absurd. What the mayor is doing is criminal.”

Other parents have expressed indignation that their children are denied entrance to a “half-empty” bus which visits the Big Six daily to transport students between kindergarten and second grade.

“There are no resources being saved here. The bus is still here and it is virtually empty,” said Thomas Haggerty, whose son is a fourth grader at P.S. 229. “I think the DOE is playing games.”

Haggerty says the variance was in place for 45 years before being removed before the 2010 school year, and that the DOE never provided parents with a reason for the change.

Between January 2010 and September 2011, the DOE has approved only 16 percent of hazard variances citywide – with a mere five percent permitted for students attending public schools in Queens. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer says the DOE has also reported that the policy shift on variances is saving the city between $1 and $3 million.

Van Bramer rallied with parents and members of Community Education Council District 24 on March 8 to protest the DOE’s suggested “safe route” for the children of P.S. 229, which involves crossing the service road of the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway and other heavily-trafficked intersections.

According to DOE spokesperson Margie Feinberg, the intersection causing concern for P.S. 229 parents has both a traffic signal and a sidewalk along the underpass. Feinberg also said the DOE only reviews individual requests for variances since eliminating school-wide waivers two years ago.

Despite the DOE’s safety assurances, Van Bramer and a number of Big Six residents have reported multiple accidents at two separate intersections along the route within the past few weeks.

“Our children rely on the DOE to keep them safe and they are in charge of ensuring that safety,” said Van Bramer. “But the DOE is completely ignoring this obvious hazard which sits in between the children’s homes and their school. Each day the chances of a tragedy occurring at this intersection increase and I’m not going to stand by while the DOE continues to put our children’s lives in harm’s way.”


DOE adding 6,000 seats in Queens

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

With school congestion having hit the ceiling, the Department of Education (DOE) recently took a step towards giving students supplemental space to let their minds grow.

The DOE recently announced that roughly 6,000 new school seats will be created in Queens, easing overcrowding throughout the borough.

“Over the next two years we plan to add an additional 6,000 seats in Queens, recognizing the growing needs of students and families in the borough,” said DOE spokesperson Matt Mittenthal.

Four new schools will be opened in September 2012 – P.S./I.S. 277 in Jamaica, with 665 seats; Eagle Academy in Jamaica, with an undetermined number of seats; H.S. 585 in Elmhurst, which will house Maspeth High School and contain 1,119 seats; and Middle College High School in Long Island City, with 820 seats. An addition will also be built on P.S. 29 in College Point, accounting for 232 new seats.

“Obviously this is a step in the right direction,” said Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council (CEC) District 24, which covers mid-western Queens. “We need a lot of help in District 24. We are the most overcrowded district in the entire city of New York. We usually have 400 kindergartners that we don’t have seats for – who we try and find seats for all over the district and disperse them everywhere. Even with new seats allocated to us now we are still at the maximum, and as the class sizes are higher, it makes it harder for kids to learn.”

The DOE plans to add seats in the fall of 2013 as well, with four new schools opening – an elementary school in both Corona and East Elmhurst and an elementary school and joint intermediate and high school in Long Island City, accounting for a total of 2,448 seats – and two additions being constructed at Richmond Hill High School and P.S. 87 in Middle Village.

CEC 30 is scheduled to meet on March 15 to discuss the construction of I.S./H.S. 404 – slated to open in L.I.C. in 2013 with 1,071 seats.

“Any new schools that go up, we are excited,” said Isaac Carmignani, co-president of CEC 30. “We need them desperately. We can’t get enough seats in District 30, District 24 and in the entire western Queens area.”

Carmignani says his district is the second most crowded in the city, and with housing booming in L.I.C., there is no way to measure how many additional seats schools will soon require.

“There are high rises and housing developments constantly going up in Hunters Point,” he said. “We are building so much that we never know if we are getting enough seats for students.”

Leonie Haimson, executive director of the education advocacy group Class Size Matters, believes the DOE has grossly underestimated the degree of overcrowding in Queens schools.

“This is still not enough. What is interesting is that the DOE has admitted in the capital plan that they have severely underfunded the need in terms of how many seats should be built for Queens to accommodate enrollment growth,” said Haimson, who believes overcrowding can lead to academic failure and disciplinary issues. “They are underestimating the number of seats necessary to deal with overcrowding, huge class sizes and trailers that have outlived their usefulness. Our sense is that this is getting worse and not better.”