City purchases $18.1M plot to build Forest Hills schools

By Tien-Shun Lee

Three proposed new schools in Forest Hills are one step closer to being built after the city School Construction Authority purchased an eight-acre piece of land from the Forest City Ratner development company for $18.1 million on March 17.

The land for the proposed schools is located near the intersection of Metropolitan Avenue and Selfridge Street.

The city Department of Education approved a proposal to build an 800-seat high school, 650-seat elementary school and 650-seat intermediate school over three years ago, but little concrete action was taken before last month’s land purchase, said Kathleen Histon, the district manager of Community Board 6.

There has been no allocation of city funds to design and build the schools.

“I’m sure the funding will eventually come down. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have purchased the property, but it may take a while,” said Gregory Shaw, the principal attorney for the SCA. “Several years ago it had been considered to build the schools, but at the time we didn’t have the site.”

Shaw said more would be known about the funding for the proposed schools after Department of Education comes out with its new five-year capital plan this fall.

According to the DOE’s original proposal, the new elementary school would be located in School District 24, the intermediate school would be located in School District 28, and the high school would be overseen by the DOE’s high school division.

If the elementary and intermediate schools are eventually built, they will probably be over-enrolled before they even open because both District 24 and District 28 are overcrowded, said Histon.

    According to the DOE, District 24 elementary schools are currently at 113 percent of capacity in the most crowded district in the city. District 28 middle schools are at 82 percent of capacity, and high schools are at 117 percent of capacity.

The high school would likely be an “application” school that takes students from all over the city through an application process, as opposed to a zoned school that accepts mostly local students, Histon said.

The proposed schools, which would be housed in three separate buildings, would have to go through a public hearing process before they are built.

Histon predicted parking for the schools would present a problem for the community.

“There would be parking all over the residential streets, just based on the sheer numbers,” she said.

However, it is too early to worry about details like parking, she said.

“Maybe they won’t build three schools. Maybe they’ll just build one school,” she said. “First the property has to be cleaned up.”

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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