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A community task force
convened by Congressmember Gregory W. Meeks to influence development planning at the St. Albans Veterans Hospital campus decided at an emergency meeting last week that it will request that a portion of the campus be set aside for a new educational complex.
The group of approximately 15 community leaders or their
representatives joined Meeks at his district office on Jamaica Avenue for a telephone conference call with City Councilmember Leroy G. Comrie, Jr. on Wed., November 8. The group unanimously agreed to ask the United States Veterans Administration (VA) to reserve 10 of the campus’ 55 acres for
construction of an elementary, middle and a high school in its redevelopment plan.
&#8220All of our schools are
overcrowded. We need to have a higher level educational complex put up in our district,” Meeks told the group, emphasizing that the school should have a strong
science and math curriculum to prepare students for highly skilled technical jobs.
The high school is envisioned as a high-performance school such as the Bronx High School of Science or Brooklyn Technical and would be modeled on the Bard High School Early College located in Manhattan. The Bard program enables highly motivated students to earn both a New York State Regents diploma and an associate of arts degree in the liberal arts in four years.
&#8220Those are the jobs that are being created in America in this century,” Meeks said, emphasizing that such jobs are going unwanted among much of his constituency. &#8220People are begging me to find people to fill these jobs,” he
continued.
The planning comes following an assessment of the St. Albans facility as part of the VA’s Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services, a comprehensive study of the agency’s healthcare
infrastructure that began in 2002.
The VA included St. Albans among 18 sites it selected in 2004 for additional analysis and
recently found that its facilities are being underutilized. In August, VA Secretary R. James Nicholson announced his decision to replace existing facilities at St. Albans with a nursing home, outpatient clinics and housing consolidated at the northern end of the campus. Because of the decision, all but five acres of the 55-acre campus could be sold or leased for other uses such as housing, office,
educational or retail.
Last week, however, published reports revealed a change in the City’s plan to combat school
overcrowding. Although the City originally planned to add 107 new schools to its roster by 2011, last week New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein wrote school principals telling them that the City would build seven fewer schools than anticipated. The decrease results in the creation of 3,000 fewer new seats within the system, according to the reports.
Despite this reduction in schools, Meeks was not concerned for the future of the proposed St. Albans educational complex. Meeks said that the schools plan has
important advantages including a unique location on an open
campus, a community badly in need of additional schools to
alleviate overcrowding and the high-performance nature of the schools.
&#8220I’m sure [the mayor] would see this is a unique opportunity,” Meeks said. &#8220It fits all the criteria that he’s been looking for.”
Apologizing for the last-minute nature of the meeting, Meeks told the group that it was important that it work quickly to form a
consensus about its vision for the St. Albans campus. With a total of 50 acres available for re-use there, the task force has its wishes for 40 more acres to consider.
According to Meeks, the VA wants to begin soliciting proposals for the site in January 2007. In order for the local community to help shape the nature of the
proposals, Meeks said that the task force should meet frequently and suggested that it reconvene on Monday November 20.
&#8220We don’t have time to waste.
Tick tock tick tock,” said Meeks, who also stressed transparency
in the process. &#8220We want the
public to know that we’re doing this, this should not be a secret process,” he said, asking the
attendees to seek community input. Concerned community
members can also contact
Meeks’ executive assistant, Brian Simon, with feedback at
718-725-6000.

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