Not all is 'rite' with school proposal
by Holly Tsang
Mar 03, 2010 | 3628 views | 0 0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The School Construction Authority (SCA) listened to western Queens residents’ concerns over the proposed elementary school in Ridgewood at a public hearing organized by Community Board 5 last Wednesday, but it appears that the process has a long way to go as many questions remain unanswered and no visual rendering of the school was presented.

The school, which is proposed on the site of the former Rite Aid at 55-20 Metropolitan Avenue in Ridgewood, would accommodate about 600 students. According to Christopher Persheff, SCA’s site selection manager for Queens, the site is roughly 43,000 square feet, or about an acre. Part of that would be given over to a sizable school yard. Persheff confirmed that the site has not yet been purchased and declined to give an approximate purchase price.

Community members previously expressed interest in having the site developed for a supermarket. CB5 member Sylvia Nappi maintained there are plenty of schools in the neighborhood. What the area needs, she said, is more food stores.

"Nobody even knows where West Maspeth is, but they're fine to put a school where Rite Aid was, where there was a Key Food once, and now we don't have any place to go shopping?" said Nappi. "Forget it. Find another place!"

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley reached out to union leaders with connections to supermarkets, but no stores showed interest, according to a spokesperson.

There were also questions about the effects a new school might have on traffic and parking in the area, already a concern among residents. Persheff assured them the Department of Education would not permit on-site parking.

“We would rather invest the money in providing seats for the children rather than providing parking for the teachers,” said Christopher Persheff.

CB5 District Manager Gary Giordano felt that several major issues were unclear or were not addressed by the SCA. There was much talk of overcrowded local schools, but no specific schools were mentioned except when the principal of P.S. 153 stood up as a member of the public to discuss the brevity of the situation at her school.

“I don’t doubt that overcrowding needs to be relieved at P.S. 153 and P.S. 71, but but I want to hear that from them [the SCA], not for us to surmise this,” said Giordano.

He pointed out that one thing to be considered is the proposed elementary school’s proximity to Grover Cleveland High School and how the two schools would interact with each other.

Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council District 24, brought up a point that the school would be built for K-8 but utilized as K-5. Giordano was uncertain what that this meant and the implications it would have for existing local elementary schools.

A noteworthy point, which Giordano confirmed, is that SCA has to notify the community board when it intends to build a new school structure, but there is no requirement for them to notify the community board when they want to make an addition to an existing school.

“I think this is the time we’re going to be conducting committee meetings for all community board members to air the issues with regard to the site and for us to work toward coming up with the best recommendation we can in a timely fashion,” said Giordano.

He said CB5’s recommendation to SCA must be submitted on or around March 15.
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