On one side were school opponents who repeatedly referred to the potential influx of high school students as "monsters" and "animals" that would terrorize the streets of Maspeth after school. They were pitted against supporters of the proposed school who all but pleaded for the facility so they could avoid sending their kids to the already unbelievably overcrowded nearby Grover Cleveland and Newtown high schools, among other area schools.
The fighting factions so completely lost control that officials had to step in and threaten to shut the public hearing down there and then if order wasn't restored. Shame on everyone who participated in the outburst.
Last week Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley succeeded in convincing the Department of Education (DOE) to extend the review process for the school by one extra month so the department could continue its dialogue on the proposed school with the community.
Is this the kind of dialogue Crowley and the DOE can expect? When residents and local leaders act as they did at the public hearing, it's hard to understand why they deserve a voice on the matter at all.
The proposed school is a hot button issue as parent advocates, educators, and elected officials look for ways to alleviate the city’s massive problem of overcrowded schools. It’s clear to all parties involved that something has to be done to ensure that all children have access to quality education in safe, reasonably- sized classrooms and schools.
Figuring out how to meet this goal is extremely difficult, and requires the patience of community board members, teachers, and education department officials alike.
In the case of the Maspeth school there are several issues at play, none of them easy to resolve. They include, among others, community unease over the way the School Construction Authority does business and the city uses eminent domain law to acquire property for schools to the education department's policy against locally zoning schools.
Since the school was first proposed, Community Board 5 has voiced a strong preference that the school be locally zoned to give Maspeth teenagers enrollment priority. Though locally zoning schools is against DOE policy, the department has made an effort to meet halfway by offering district priority to students in School District 24.
Some community residents are opposed to the city using eminent domain to acquire the proposed site for the school, and many are angry with the SCA for moving forward with plans for the school despite strong community opposition.
These problems need solving, and the only way that will happen is if all sides concerned find ways to work together to forge an acceptable compromise. Crowley was able to extend the review process for one month, not forever. Time is running out.