Tag Archives: P.S. 85

New legislation to protect Astoria school from ‘disruptive’ subway noise

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Members of one Astoria school, located about 50 feet away from a subway platform, are hoping a new proposed bill will help bring “peaceful learning.”

The community at P.S. 85 is met daily with noise problems caused by the N and Q elevated subway line, which shakes windows and disrupts lessons, according to parents and teachers. 

Looking to bring a stop to the noise pollution, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley announced on Monday the Peaceful Learning Act of 2014, new legislation that would require the formation of a program to lessen railway noise levels that “negatively impact” public schools in the city. 

“As another school year begins, it is unconscionable that so many children whose schools are located near elevated trains are forced to learn under these adverse conditions,” said Crowley. “If we are serious about helping our children reach their full potential, providing an adequate and peaceful learning environment is priority number one.” 

During the morning announcement, speakers were interrupted by trains passing by in front of the school. Teachers, parents and elected officials held up two fingers, a gesture used daily to pause school lectures every time a train passes.

During rush hour trains pass by every two minutes and during normal hours, every five minutes, according to officials.

The proposed federal bill will direct the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the impact of the subway noise on schools, determine acceptable ideas and evaluate the usefulness of noise reduction programs, according to the congressman.

Then schools that would be considered subject to unacceptable noise levels will be qualified to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, together with local matching funds, to build barriers or acoustical shielding to soundproof the sites.

Last December, the P.S. 85 community and elected officials rallied to call on the MTA and Department of Education to help alleviate the noise problems.

“This cannot go on any longer. This school has been here for over a hundred years, trains came after, and the school has adjusted,” said Evie Hantzopoulos, vice president of the parent association at P.S. 85. “Our kids go with it, our teachers go with it. And we all know we shouldn’t get used to things that are bad for you.”

Rebecca Bratspies, who is director of the City University of New York School of Law Center for Urban Environmental Reform and also the parent of a third grader at P.S. 85, said last fall she and another parent, Eric Black, recorded a video from inside the classroom to show the level of noise students face. 

While they recorded, the parents measured the noise level in the classroom to be 90 decibels, almost double the normal standard. 

“[The children] come here every day trying hard to learn. They do their best,” said Bratspies. “Now we have to do our best.”


Councilmember Costa Constantinides wants government to work for his constituents

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Councilmember Costa Constantinides wants his constituents to know he is here for them and plans on keeping his two campaign promises – to work hard for them and never lie.

It has been almost four weeks since Constantinides began his position as District 22’s newest councilmember representing Astoria and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

From moving into his brand new office, located at 31-09 Newton Ave. in Astoria, to going around meeting his constituents and introducing himself to the community, Constantinides has been busy.

“I understand the work the people in this district have sent me to City Hall to do and I’m making sure their voice is continually heard at City Hall and that’s my job,” he said during an interview with The Courier.

The freshman legislator refers to his new office as the “people’s house” and encourages his constituents to stop by.

“It’s real easy to hear how I’m doing,” he said. “I take a lot of cues from my constituents on the ground as to how things are really working out in the district.”

His plans for the district include working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to bring ferry service to western Queens and also create what he calls a “multi-module transportation system,” including bike lanes and increased bus service.

Constantinides also plans to work on improving schools in the district, whether it be helping reduce subway noise congestion at P.S. 85 or discussing with the Department of Education technological upgrades to bring schools to the 21st century.

Constantinides also wants to introduce a bill requiring corner garbage pickup at the end of every business day, and bring The Doe Fund to the area to help keep the community clean.

Constantinides will hold his inauguration ceremony on Sunday, Jan. 26 at Long Island City High School, located at 14-30 Broadway, starting at 3 p.m.

“I think we have a great staff,” he said. “We’re really excited to get out to the neighborhood. We’re really going to be out in the community, hearing concerns that our neighbors have and finding ways to address those concerns. We’re going to be active in being out in the community and being a resource for them to make government better.”



Community demands end to disruptive subway noise by Astoria school

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Local elected officials and the P.S. 85 community in Astoria want to put a screeching halt to subway noise.

State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. and Councilmember-elect Costa Constantinides joined community leaders, parents, teachers and students from P.S. 85 at a rally Tuesday to demand the MTA and Department of Education (DOE) alleviate noise problems created by the N and Q elevated subway line.

During the rally, speakers were constantly interrupted by a total of 16 trains that passed by in front of the school. Students, teachers and elected officials put up two fingers, a gesture used daily to pause school lectures, every time a train car passed.

“It is an unacceptable learning environment,” said Gianaris. “It’s been going on for decades and it’s something that shouldn’t be so difficult to fix as it apparently seems to be in the hands of the DOE and the MTA.”

Gianaris and Simotas sent a letter to both the MTA and DOE calling for the agencies to come up with noise reduction ideas, including installing soundproof windows, acoustic sound-absorbing tiles, rubber wheels on the trains, cushioning the rails with rubber pads, and putting up a sound barrier between the outdoor subways platform and the school.

“It’s hard enough to grab a child’s attention, but to have to do it over and over again is too much to ask. My father had acoustic tiles put in years ago, but times and technology have changed and more needs to be done,” said Vallone.

Vallone recently announced the MTA will be implementing a new technology on every train car on the N and Q subways lines, which will help reduce the noise of the air brakes at the lines’ last stop at the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard station.

According to students and teachers, during rush hour trains pass by every two minutes and during normal hours, every five minutes.

“It’s not fair to take any time away from their education,” said Farhan Mahin, a fifth grader and P.S. 85 student council president. “We want quiet now. This is our cause and we will not stand for anything else.”

According to Rebecca M. Bratspies, professor of law and director of The City University of New York School of Law Center for Urban Environmental Reform, a recent study revealed the sound noise in the P.S. 85 classrooms was close to 90 decibels, almost double the normal standard.

“The noise outside P.S. 85 is unfair to our children and does not supply them with a conducive learning environment,” said Constantinides, whose son attends P.S. 85. “We owe them better than the distracting environment they currently inhabit at PS 85.”

According to DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg, P.S. 85 is a high-performance school which received an A on its recent Progress Report and some classrooms already have acoustic tiles.

“Instruction is not being disrupted,” said Feinberg. “Some classrooms have acoustic tiles. The 1st floor has five rooms with acoustic tile facing the front of the building. The 2nd floor has three rooms plus the auditorium facing the front of the building. The 3rd floor has two rooms facing the front of the building. They are all facing the side of the building exposed to the train.”

Terminal switches for the Ditmars Boulevard subway station are located right by the school making the noise problem at the site hard to fix, according to MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz.

“These switches are scheduled for replacement in the next capital plan (2015-2019).  In the meantime, we have dispatched crews to tighten any loose bolts or joints that may contribute to noise,” Ortiz said.


Parents want gifted middle school for Astoria

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

The parents of some of Queens’ sharpest young students are hoping the Department of Education (DOE) gives their children a “gift” — an advanced middle school program in western Queens.

Parents of P.S. 85 are distributing a petition in hopes of convincing the DOE to create a gifted and talented intermediate school in District 30 — similar to the Science, Technology, Enrichment and Math (S.T.E.M.) program currently housed within the elementary school, located at 23-70 31st Street in Astoria.

The S.T.E.M. program, which opened in 2009, is available to children across the city from kindergarten to fifth grade, unlike many of the other gifted and talented programs, which are kindergarten through eighth grade. Students hoping to be accepted into a citywide gifted and talented program must score in at least the 97th percentile, with the 90th percentile being the minimum for programs within their district.
Rebecca Bratspies, an Astoria resident whose five-year-old daughter is in the S.T.E.M. program, is fearful that the advanced education her child is receiving at P.S. 85 will cease after elementary school.

“This is a fabulous program,” Bratspies said. “I think it is essential for the children’s education and development. These students have special learning styles and educational needs, and they deserve to have these needs met. There is a history of gifted children acting out in class because they are bored and the education isn’t meeting their needs. Unfortunately, middle school is often forgotten. Lots of time and energy are put into elementary and high school, but middle school has fallen through the cracks, and it is one of the most important times for children developmentally.”

While Bratspies understands P.S. 85 is not large enough to support a middle school, she is hopeful the DOE can find another location to continue the program.

According to DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas, students in School District 30 can apply to any of the gifted and talented programs across the city, and they also have access to eight selective and screened middle schools in the immediate area.

“Students in gifted and talented elementary schools are served in a variety of ways by individual schools and districts all over the city, including selective and screened middle schools. That said, we always take feedback into account and want to ensure that every student has access to a great program,” Thomas said.

Although the district already has a gifted and talented middle school inside I.S. 122 in Long Island City, parents of P.S. 85 say there are not enough seats available for their children.

“There isn’t space for the kids from P.S. 85, and the program at I.S. 122 is only for kids from District 30 — but we have kids from all over,” Bratspies said. “So while it may be a solution for kids from District 30, the rest of the kids are out of luck.”

Tim Smith, a resident of Riverdale in the Bronx, is among the parents concerned about the limited accelerated educational options available to his child, a third grader in the S.T.E.M. program whose address makes him ineligible for admittance to I.S. 122.

“I’m extremely fearful that my son won’t be able to continue in a similar program,” said Smith. “The transition to middle school is tough as it is, so if the educational transition is tough as well, then a child could have an even harder time meeting his or her academic potential.”

Isaac Carmignani, the co-president of Community District Education Council 30 (CDEC 30), has been communicating with the DOE since January in hopes of creating a new citywide gifted and talented program in western Queens.
“Everybody is in agreement that we need a gifted and talented middle school for P.S. 85,” Carmignani said. “We have gifted and talented schools in District 30, but they are filled to capacity. There are options available, but there could be more.”

Carmignani says he has held discussions with the DOE about creating a gifted middle school program in I.S. 126 in Long Island City, and he is optimistic that a program will be established.

“We have hopes that we may get the program in I.S. 126 or somewhere else,” he said. “Putting a gifted and talented program in a school where we have room is far less controversial than some of the other ways the space could be used.”