By Jennifer Warren
The school, which would seat more than 700 students, is greatly needed in the neighborhood where schools are severely overcrowded and some already use trailers as classrooms.
But while there is a desperate need for more classroom seats in District 27, several members of the community said they were offended by the School Construction Authority's high-handed manner of doing things.
Community Board 9 held a meeting Jan. 9 at which the School Construction Authority outlined its plans for the elementary school, which will be called PS 254. Fewer than a dozen residents attended.
“This happens time and time again,” said Linda Reisch, who lives on 101st Street in a house directly opposite the proposed site. She said that while she had been notified of the plans to demolish the factory and build a new school, she could find no others on her block who were aware of it.
She received notice from the school board that the SCA was looking at the site, she believes, because she was formerly the president of the PTA at neighboring PS 66.
“The school board sent out a notice to the parents of children in schools in the area but not to people in the neighborhood. This is a bone of contention around here.”
The SCA said it had notified both the local school board and the community board Dec. 15 by sending out thick packets of information which included a site chart, notice for filing, and an alternative site analysis.
It was the responsibility of those boards to inform the residents, said SCA spokesman Dan McCormack.
In the end, “there was nothing to vote on,” said George Martin, a resident of 101st Street who also lives across from the site.
“The School Construction Authority was there to collect comments. It was an opportunity for a public hearing. But there was no vote, which leads us to believe that the process is so far ahead that our comments are not going to be incorporated.”
The School Construction Authority had been planning the project for two years, according to Reich, and had proceeded with soil sampling and site drilling. The Construction Authority also told the Tuesday meeting that demolition would most likely begin in May.
The SCA's McCormack said the public comment period is open until Jan. 30. At that time the SCA will review the public comments to determine if there is any reason to halt the project. If no problems are found, the proposal will be forwarded to the City Council and the mayor for their review and approval, he said.
Residents in the area cited many concerns about the proposed school site at Tuesday's meeting, including increased traffic, chronic speeding, allotment of parking spaces, and the susceptibility of the nearby wood-framed houses to damage during demolition and construction.
“If they use a pile foundation, it would generate a lot of vibrations,” said Martin, an engineer, describing the long reinforced columns that are driven into the ground. “It could crack the plaster walls and basement walls. Water could leak into basements.”
The residents were also worried that there would not be enough traffic signs. They said nearby PS 66 went for years without appropriate stop signs despite repeated requests by the parents.