By Peter Sorkin
The new site for PS 245, at 1823-25 Starr St., is currently an umbrella factory and is several blocks away from the original site at 384 Seneca Ave., where a two-story former knitting mill factory sits. Many parents and teachers from St. Aloysius, directly across the street, say the area is already far too crowded to support another institution.
Mike Hetzer, an executive committee member of CB 5, which covers Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and parts of Elmhurst, said the new site is a safer alternative to the Seneca Avenue site.
“It's obvious that everyone agrees that there's an additional elementary school that is needed in this vicinity,” Hetzer said. “When the School Construction Authority came with that Seneca Avenue site, everyone opposed the site.”
In December, the City Council unanimously approved the plan to build the new school despite the continued protests from many local residents and teachers at St. Aloysius. Many at St. Aloysius say the school already fills neighboring streets with students and a new school would aggravate parking and traffic.
Officials from the School Construction Authority have not yet commented on the new site. For months, the SCA has said the school is needed to alleviate overcrowding at nearby PS 71, which is already operating at 105 percent capacity, and PS 81, which is at 149 percent capacity, according to acting School District 24 Superintendent Joseph Quinn.
SB 24, which covers Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village, Elmhurst and parts of Corona, is the most overcrowded in the city. Quinn has said that by next calendar year, his district will be 37 percent over capacity and as much as 68 percent beyond capacity in 2007.
Hetzer and another executive board member, Peggy O'Kane, said the Starr site is far more beneficial to the neighborhood.
“We don't feel (Seneca Avenue) is an appropriate site for a school,” Hetzer said. “There's no off-street parking, no room for a playground. St. Aloysius is right across the street. It's a very busy area and a very, very small site.”
According to the resolution, the Starr Street site is about the same distance from PS 71 and from PS 81.
The resolution also states that the Starr Street site is far more conducive to traffic conditions and would be large enough to allow for a considerable amount of off-street parking, as well as a playground for the children.
The Starr site is also directly across the street from a playground and is near the historic Onderdonk House, a New York City landmark.
The original plans for PS 245 said it would seat 400 pre-K through third graders, said Landmarks and Citing Committee Chairman John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights). It is scheduled to be replaced with a 43,000-square-foot building and a 4,400-square-foot playground.
The proposed school is now scheduled to be built on a site of about 15,000 square feet. Of that area, 10,500 square feet would be used for the school and the remaining room would be for a playground of about 4,400 square feet. As many as 30 teachers and staff would work at the school.
“The other site is very large and is a much calmer area.” Hetzer said. “We want to highlight [Starr Street] for a good site for a school.”