Tag Archives: School Construction Authority

Local pol brings together community, school officials on proposed Bayside high school

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Gregg Sullivan

Councilman Paul Vallone held a community engagement meeting at his district office on Tuesday regarding the proposed high school to be built at the Bayside Jewish Center.

Representatives from the School Construction Authority (SCA) and Department of Education (DOE) attended the meeting along with community board members and interested residents. This is the second conference the councilman has held on the subject.

Discussion revolved around plans for the future of the new school, with the SCA made several commitments to increase community input and encourage civic participation in the school’s installation.

Although the contract between the SCA and the Bayside Jewish Center has already been signed, the SCA vowed that the community will be able to determine what type of programs the school will provide. This could include specialized programs and areas of study otherwise uncommon in northeast Queens.

The SCA and Vallone’s office will build a group of community stakeholders to gather input on which specialized programs the school will host.

The SCA also committed to take the context of the neighborhood into consideration with regards to the immediate area’s residential character. This had led to concessions on the size and scale of school to minimize the impact on the community of mostly single-family homes.

Additionally, an environmental impact study slated to start during the summer was pushed back after concerns that it would be more accurate if conducted during the school year.

Vallone said that although the school site selection process has historically lacked transparency, the commitments the SCA and DOE have made to date are significant steps toward improving community engagement.

“I don’t think anyone supports the SCA’s site selection process, a process that clearly needs to be changed,” said Vallone. “However, our continuing community engagement forums will ensure that our community’s voices are heard and that we play an integral role in our children’s educational future.”

DOE spokesman Jason Fink said that the SCA is fully cooperating with residents and everyone else who might be affected by the incoming school.

“As we continue our effort to reduce school overcrowding in Queens and throughout our city, we are fully engaging our partners to ensure ongoing dialogue on all aspects of this project as we move forward.”

State Senator Tony Avella has also been involved in recent inquiries surrounding the school’s installation in Bayside.

According to the senator, Attorney General Karin Goldman has declared that proper regulations were not observed in the sale of the Bayside Jewish Center because the organization did not give his office the opportunity to review whether or not the deal was compliant with existing statutes.

Bayside Jewish Center President Joshua Sussman was unable to be reached as of press time.


P.S./I.S. 78 in LIC finally welcomes new playground

| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angela Matua

Students, faculty and elected officials gathered in front of the early childhood center at P.S./I.S. 78 in Long Island City on Friday to celebrate the opening of a new playground for pre-K, kindergarten and first grade students.

The playground, which took five and a half years to make a reality, will act as an alternative site to Gantry Plaza State Park. Students were previously escorted to the state park across the street, but some parents were concerned about their children crossing Center Boulevard.

Residents have continuously rallied for crosswalks and stop signs along the boulevard to curb the increasing number of cars and pedestrians traversing the area.

“Someone asked me why it was so important to have this space when there’s a park right across the street,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “It’s true that we have a park right across the street, but that street is one of the most dangerous streets that we have and why should the children, 4- and 5-year-olds from this school, have to cross this street to get to a playground? They shouldn’t have to.”

Van Bramer secured $350,000 for the construction of the playground and, with the help of Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and School Construction Authority President and CEO Lorraine Grillo, was able to resolve a dispute over who owned the property. Citylights is the official property owner.

Students from the middle school were invited to explore the new playground and quickly gravitated toward the many features after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Acadia Helfand, 10, knows that the playground is for younger children but is hopeful that fifth-graders will get a chance to enjoy the park as well.

“I hope that on some days we can come in and just hang out and play around like we are right now,” Helfand said. “I really like the spinning circle thing.”

Christie Alexander, a mother of a 4-year-old kindergartner at the school said she is glad that her daughter will not have to cross Center Boulevard to get her exercise.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Alexander said. “I know the teachers are really careful about [crossing the street] but it was still really nerve-wracking.”


City Council panels approve construction of new school in Ozone Park

| amatua@queenscourier.com

File photo

A new school will soon rise in Ozone Park.

The City Council’s Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses and the Land Use Committee approved on Wednesday a School Construction Authority (SCA) contract to erect P.S. 335, a 504-seat school at a vacant lot on Albert Road between Raleigh Street and 99th Place, in the Centerville section of Ozone Park. The school is scheduled to open in 2017.

An SCA spokesperson said the number of seats are flexible and can change depending on the needs of the community.

Several pre-K classes will also be included in the 72,500-square-foot space and the SCA is planning to add a spacious playground area, basketball and volleyball courts, bicycle racks, areas dedicated to planting and gardening and an outdoor stage for events.

Currently, students in Centreville attend P.S. 63 at 90-15 Sutter Ave. across Cross Bay Boulevard or P.S. 146 in Howard Beach at 98-01 159 Ave. The SCA, expecting overcrowding in District 27, procured the land from the New York Racing Association to alleviate potential overcrowding from the addition of 990 students in the district by 2017.

Councilman Eric Ulrich said this school is a great addition to the neighborhood.

“This new school will help alleviate overcrowded classrooms in our district and will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood,” Ulrich said in a statement. “The final design of the school is contextual with the surrounding community and is just the latest investment we are making in our children’s future.”

A capital project, set to replace and add much-needed streets, including Albert Road, sidewalks, curbs, pedestrian ramps, water mains, sanitary sewers and new storm drains in the Centreville area must be completed before the construction of the new school.

A spokesperson for SCA said work on the new school is slated to start “in the next few months.”


CM Van Bramer: More schools coming soon to Long Island City

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

With more than 22,500 new residential units planned for or already under construction in Long Island City, many questions about infrastructure are up in the air.

The lack of seats in schools in particular poses a great concern as current residents want to make sure that the institutions aren’t overloaded with children when thousands of new residents move in.

But Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer tried to clear up doubt about lack of school spaces during a Q&A at the second annual LIC Summit event on Tuesday at the Museum of the Moving Image.

While answering a question about more schools from a frustrated parent, Van Bramer said he has been working with the School Construction Authority (SCA) to find sites for new schools in LIC.

The politician and the SCA will have some “good news in terms of future school sites announced relatively quickly,” Van Bramer told The Courier following the panel.

The councilman couldn’t yet reveal details about the future schools in the area, such as where, how many seats or when they would be ready. But Van Bramer said he understands the concerns from parents and is hoping to get good news to the community soon.

“We need more schools,” he said. “I think that’s absolutely essential that we build more schools for the future of Long Island City. I feel the urgency on the part of some of the parents.”


Bayside residents rail against high school proposal at CB 11 meeting

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

Bayside residents showed up in large numbers to Monday’s Community Board 11 (CB 11) meeting to contend with a proposed high school planned for the former Bayside Jewish Center.

Although many were interested in speaking on the issue of the proposed school, most of the attendees had not realized they needed to pre-register for the public participation segment of the evening and were not allowed to have the floor. The few who did get to speak out against the school received a raucous applause from the rest of the audience.

“Put simply, this project is not needed and is not wanted,” said Nancy Kupferberg, a Bayside resident who has had two of her children attend nearby Bayside High School. Kupferberg appeared on behalf of many others to present a total of 3,100 letters from community residents, students and staff members to express their concerns about the proposal.

“What my experience tells me is that we don’t want this,” added Ana Baires, a resident of the area around Bayside High School. She spoke of teenagers loitering around her house and causing trouble.

The residents were so eager to speak on the matter that many members of the frustrated crowd spilled out into the hallway. Chairwoman Christine Haider said a discussion will be held in the future when the community board has more information about the project.

A staffer from Councilman Paul Vallone’s office was on hand to talk to residents and explain the process that the School Construction Authority (SCA) must follow to build the school. Vallone was an early supporter of the school’s installation, citing overcrowding in District 26. His office has since said that while the councilman is cautiously optimistic about a new school, he has not taken a stance on where it should be located.

While the SCA has put in a bid to for the Bayside Jewish Center, the deal is not finalized and several studies must be done to prove the area’s suitability for a school. A traffic study will analyze the potential impact on parking and congestion patterns, and an impact assessment will measure potential effects on the environment.

After passing the relevant studies, the proposed school will then be discussed by community boards and the general public, and would later be voted on by the City Council. Public hearings with the SCA may be scheduled as soon as this summer, according to a representative from Vallone’s office.


Residents rally against high school planned for Bayside Jewish Center

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Residents living near the Bayside Jewish Center rallied with state Sen. Tony Avella on Thursday against a proposed high school planned for their neighborhood.

Around 75 people showed up at the intersection of 32nd Avenue and 204th Street and largely complained of overcrowded traffic and buses due to the existence of several other schools in the nearby vicinity, including a number of elementary schools and Bayside High School, which serves a student body of more than 3,000 only four blocks away.

While the protesters agreed that new schools should be built for local students, they did not think that their community could accommodate a school with a planned capacity of between 800 and 1,000 students.

Avella said the School Construction Authority (SCA) has systematically chosen school sites without the support of residents and elected officials, citing an unsuccessful 2013 outcry against an elementary school being built on 48th Avenue. He is introducing legislation which would amend education law to require detailed analyses to be made available upon the proposed construction of a new school in a city of over a million in population.

“Too many times, SCA has been allowed to barge into a neighborhood and construct a monstrous school wherever they choose,” said Avella. “We cannot allow this to keep happening.”

Henry Euler, first vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said that he and many others were frustrated with the lack of participation afforded to the community in the decision-making process for a new development.

“Above all, what they should be doing is consulting us, and asking the residents, what do they want, what should we put here, what do you need,” Euler said.

Members of Community Board 11 spoke before the crowd to offer their objections at not being consulted on the location of a new school.

“Come to the community and ask,” said board member Paul DiBenedetto. “They don’t know, they just look on a map.”

Some attending the rally even placed blame on the owners of the Jewish center for selling the property to the SCA, asserting that the building’s owners did not take enough care to choose an appropriate buyer to fill their place.

“They shouldn’t turn their backs on their neighbors, and impose on them an outsize school that would completely demolish the quality of life,” said Lance Premezzi, a resident of 32nd Avenue since 1950.

Councilman Paul Vallone, however, indicated that while compromises with the community will have to be made in the process leading up to the school’s construction, he looks forward to seeing a new school in his district, whether it is installed at the former Jewish center or at an alternative site.

“Any project of this size will always have opposition but in the end, we must weigh the merits of the site against the overwhelming demand for additional seats,” Vallone, who was initially an outspoken supporter for the creation of the proposed high school at the Jewish center, said in a statement. “The significant overcrowding in our schools is an issue that has been put off for too long and will only continue to worsen if it is not addressed.”


Controversial Bayside elementary school to start construction this summer

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy the Department of Education 

The School Construction Authority is collecting bids to find a company to construct a controversial four-story, 468-seat elementary school in Bayside on the former Keil Brothers Garden Center and Nursery site.

The school, P.S. 332, will cost between $46.2 to $48.6 million and should be open for students from pre-K through fifth grade in September 2017, according to a Department of Education representative. Although a specific time wasn’t given, construction on the nearly 80,500-square-foot facility is expected to start in the late summer, the spokesperson said.

Dozens of residents held a rally two years ago in front of the site at 210-07 48th Ave. to protest the new school. Homeowners nearby said it would impact parking and present dangerous traffic problems for students.

The City Council gave the green light for the project in November 2013 after a vote. Councilmen Mark Weprin and Peter Vallone Jr. were the only legislators who voted against it. However, state Sen. Tony Avella, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and Community Board 11 also opposed the project.

Supporters of the plan said it would relieve congestion from the district’s schools, which, like schools in many other parts of the borough, are suffering from overcrowding.

That could be the reason why the size of the proposed school inflated over the years. Original plans were for a 456-student institution.

Construction companies have until May 22 to submit their bids.


Parents call for permanent annex at Corona’s P.S. 143 to alleviate overcrowding

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Parents at one Corona school are saying enough is enough and are calling on officials to give their children more room to succeed.

Over a hundred parents and children gathered on Tuesday morning with state Senator Jose Peralta outside of P.S. 143, The Louis Armstrong Elementary School, located at 34-74 113th St., to propose the building of a permanent addition to the school to help alleviate the chronic overcrowding.

According to Peralta, the Corona elementary school was originally built to accommodate 900 students, yet currently there are about 1,800 students enrolled at the site. This causes some children to have lunch at 9:50 a.m. and a large number of students have to take their classes outside of the school’s building.

The new annex would replace a mini building and six temporary classroom units, also known as trailers, which are found on the side of the school’s original building. Some students have also been moved to an annex located at 98th Street and 38th Avenue. 

“We need to have real classrooms for our children. A trailer is no place for a kid to be learning and that’s something that we’ve been saying time and time again to the administration,” Peralta said. “No kid should have to learn in a trailer. Forget about the state-of-the-art classrooms, state-of-the-art technology, we just want every student to sit and get an education in a real classroom.

Peralta first proposed the idea of the annex to the Department of Education two years ago, and was told that the agency agreed with the need for a solution to alleviate the overcrowding at P.S. 143. However issues arose because the property where the building would go is owned by the Parks Department. 

Yet the senator said that the building of a new annex would not affect the recreational areas because it would only take up the space already being used by the mini building and trailers. 

“Enough of the talk – we need the walk, we need actions. It is time to act now,” Peralta said. “This is the 21st century. We need to treat our kids like we are in the 21st century,”

Parents said they are concerned because their young children, mostly first-graders, have to go from one location to another during bad weather conditions and are also learning in classrooms with over 30 students. 

The parents added that they call on representatives of the Department of Education, Parks Department and School Construction Authority to believe that it was their children being made to learn in these conditions. 

“We are fighting and no one listens to us and we are tired of this situation,” said Juana de los Santos, who has two children attending P.S. 143. “I believe our children deserve a good education because they are the future of this country. We want an answer and soon, we don’t want them to tell us ‘Here, in five years it will happen.’ We are tired and our children are suffering.”

According to DOE spokesman Jason Fink, the agency is “working with the Parks Department to explore ways to add capacity at this school.”


Pre-K to replace coin arcade game warehouse in Richmond Hill

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Kalmon Dolgin Associates

There will be no more games at this former warehouse, because class is almost in session.

The School Construction Authority signed a 10-year lease for a one-story Richmond Hill building, and it plans to create space for a pre-kindergarten at the site, which was formerly a warehouse for arcade vending machine supplier Bay Coin Distributors.

The arcade business is moving its operations blocks away to a smaller location, according to real estate firm Kalmon Dolgin Affiliates, which handled the transaction.

The school will take up the entire warehouse building at 132-10 Jamaica Ave., which has 12,400 square feet of space, and will seat 100 students when completed.

The site had an asking price of $30 per square foot.

Construction has already begun to transform the building into the new school, a representative for the real estate firm said.


New pre-K center to open in Elmhurst school

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/ PropertyShark

A new $3 million pre-K center is set to open next year in Elmhurst.

The School Construction Authority recently started accepting bids for the center, called Q391, which will be located in St. Bartholomew School at 44-15 Judge St.

The center will have 144 seats, according to the Department of Education, and is expected to open in September 2015.

The School Construction Authority is collecting bids until Nov. 25.


Jackson Heights middle school to welcome more space for students

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Students at one Jackson Heights middle school are getting more room to learn.

Local elected officials, Department of Education (DOE) and School Construction Authority (SCA) representatives, and members of the I.S. 230 community will come together Thursday morning to cut the ribbon on the middle school’s new annex.

Located across the street from the middle school on 34th Avenue and 74th Street, the new building has classrooms, science labs, an art studio, a library with computers, bathrooms on every floor, an exercise room and a cafeteria.

“This new annex will help alleviate overcrowding at the main I.S. 230 middle school building,” Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “In addition to providing much-needed space, the building provides rooms for science labs, the arts and exercise. These rooms are essential to a well-rounded education.”

I.S. 230 is located in School District 30, which is one of the city’s most overcrowded school districts, according to officials.

I.S. 230

I.S. 230

The SCA also purchased two lots on 74th Street which will be used as outdoor play and exercise areas, according to Dromm.

“I want to thank the DOE and the SCA for making this building so beautiful and functional,” Dromm said. “It will go a long way to improving education in our district.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the annex will take place Thursday at 9 a.m. at 74th Street and 34th Avenue.


SCA to host public sessions on new school coming to Centerville

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

The School Construction Authority (SCA) will be hosting a public forum this week on a new school being built in Centerville.

The proposed school, located at Albert Road and Huron Street, will be a big topic of discussion at the next Community Board 10 meeting on Oct. 2 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in South Ozone Park.

The SCA sought the land in an effort to alleviate expected overcrowding in School District 27.  The agency estimates that there will be an additional 990 students in the district by 2017.

The site, which is approximately 72,500 square feet, will be used as a 504-seat elementary school that will run from pre-K to grade 5.

Along with the school building, there are also plans for a large recreational area consisting of courts, a playground and even an outdoor stage, according to the SCA website.

Community Board 10 currently has six elementary schools, four K-8 schools and four middle schools in District 27.

The meeting will begin at 7:45 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, located at 135-45 Lefferts Blvd.


Renderings reveal look of new P.S./I.S. 314 school in Jamaica

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Department of Education

The School Construction Authority posted renderings of P.S./I.S. 314 in Jamaica, giving residents a glimpse into the future of a new school in the neighborhood. 

The school, which will be located on the corner of 164th Street and Hillside Avenue, is just one of many coming to the borough in the next few years to target overcrowding. It was approved by the City Council in 2011.

It will be four stories and approximately 113,092 square feet, according to city filings, and accommodate more than 830 students, from pre-K through the eighth-grade. It is expected to open in September 2015.

Gruzen Samton Architects of IBI Group designed the building, which is shaped like an “L” and organized into two main components: a four-story academic wing with classrooms, offices, a cafeteria and library, and a three-story public assembly wing, which houses the gymnasium and an auditorium.

To see more renderings of the project click here.




Residents nervous about Glendale homeless shelter impact on schools

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE QUEENS COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

Hundreds of residents voiced concerns of potentially overcrowded schools at a forum on the impact of a proposed homeless shelter in Glendale.

It would be irresponsible to put kids in a shelter that you cannot fit into its zoned school district, said Nick Comaianni, president of the Community Education Council for District 24 at the Wednesday meeting at P.S./I.S. 28.

“District 24 is already the most overcrowded school district in the city,” Comaianni said. “This is not a strategic place to house these children.”

Thirty-one of the 39 schools in the district are already over capacity, ranging from about 110 to 150 percent saturation, according to Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.

Adding the 125 families that are proposed for the Cooper Avenue shelter would mean the children living there would have priority to go to school in the area.

Increasing the number of seats to accommodate these families would be too much of a burden on the schools in the area, Crowley said.

“We need to find nearly 5,000 high school and elementary school seats for children already going to school in the area,” she said. “We have to do everything we can do to make sure [the proposed shelter] turns into a school to house these 5,000 children already overcrowding the district.”

The site was looked at two years ago by the School Construction Authority (SCA) but was deemed inadequate because of its proximity to busy Cooper Avenue and because there was a chemical plant  next door, among other things, according to Mary Lease, a representative from the SCA.

However, because Independent Chemical Corporation would now like to sell, adding that land to the land of both the vacant factory and the Hansel ‘n Gretel meat processing plant, which is for sale, means the SCA is re-considering the nine acre plot for a school, Lease said.

To buy the land, the SCA first has to do environmental assessment tests on all three of the sites.  At this point, only Hansel ‘n Gretel has agreed to let the SCA on their property to do an environmental review, with the owner of the vacant factory and owner of the Independent Chemical Company denying access, according to Lease. Without all three sites, the SCA will not build a school there, according to Lease.

Samaritan Village, the nonprofit organization looking to build the homeless shelter on the site, wants to lease the vacant factory for 60 years.

The proposed lease has not made its way to City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office yet, according to Crowley.

“We have to keep pressing upon the mayor’s office and continue our fight,” state Sen. Joe Addabbo said. “We have a serious issue regarding the overcrowding of our schools and this is not an issue that will go away.”

There is one possibility that may alleviate the further overcrowding of schools in the area if the homeless shelter is built. The school of origin program is one where children who move from one district to another can stay in the school they attended previously. This is a condition that parents of the homeless children may consider which can help some of congestion.

But considering that District 24 schools are already at 30 percent higher capacity than any other district in the city, adding even a couple of children to the schools would be too much, Crowley said.

Residents of the district asked both Crowley and Addabbo what the plans are going forward.

Crowley said she would make sure the chancellor of New York City Schools, Carmen Fariña, is aware of the issues that are already facing the district even without children from the shelter. Addabbo said he will continue to fight and send letters to the mayor’s office about the negative impact this shelter will have on the community.

But both agreed that residents also need to voice their concerns to the comptroller’s and mayor’s offices to show there is great concern for their children’s education.



DOE votes to bus more than 250 Woodside students to Astoria school

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A group of Woodside parents have lost the fight to keep their children close to home.

The Department of Education (DOE) voted on Wednesday night to temporary relocate more than 250 students from P.S.11 in Woodside to P.S. 171 in Astoria for the next three years.

The relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, comes as the School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

“I have maintained that the expansion of P.S. 11 is a necessary investment in our children’s education and is vitally important to alleviating our overcrowded schools,” Congressman Joseph Crowley said. “However, I am disappointed and troubled by the DOE’s lack of foresight to avoid this terrible situation.”

Crowley added, “The DOE’s poor planning and judgment will now place a significant burden on 250 of our youngest students and their families. Our children only get one real opportunity at a great education and it is unfortunate our city cannot do right by them.”

Seven members of the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) voted in favor of the proposal, while two were against and one abstained from voting.

Since December, parents and elected officials fought to keep the students closer to their Woodside homes and last month asked the DOE to consider renting space in the nearby former St. Teresa School building.

But P.S.11 parents say the DOE told them the former Catholic school would not be practical for the students due to lack of adequate resources at the site.

“Where there is a will there should be a way,” said Martin Connolly, whose youngest son is expected to start kindergarten at the school next year and faces being bused to Astoria. “We are just disappointed. At the moment we are just accepting the situation.”

“We are now looking very seriously at our son’s future,” the father of three said.

Connolly also has two other children currently at P.S. 11, a daughter in second grade and son in kindergarten.

“After extensive outreach to the community, we decided to move forward on delivering a state-of-the-art addition to P.S. 11 that will enrich student’s academic experience and reduce overcrowding,” DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield said.