By Gary Buiso
A proposal for a new school on East 107th Street in Canarsie seems to be dead in the water, depending on whom you ask. When it was announced at the end of last year, local elected officials and the community board greeted the project, a 500-seat school planned for 107th between Flatlands Avenue and Avenue J, with loud objections. Critics argued that the city’s School Construction Authority (SCA) should have conducted a broader search before settling on this site, which is within walking distance of at least three elementary schools. Now, City Councilmember Charles Barron, in whose district the school would sit, said the matter has been pulled from the calendar of the Council’s Land Use Committee. “The bottom line is, the SCA withdrew their application and it’s off the table right now,” Barron told this newspaper. In order to proceed, the project must win the approval of the City Council and the mayor. Barron, a member of the committee, said he had indicated to the SCA that he would not be supporting the school at that location. Barron said a school at East 107th Street could put children at risk, as they would be forced to navigate across busy Flatlands Avenue. “I was prepared to vote it down,” he said. The fact that the item would not be receiving support at the committee level seems to have discouraged the agency from proceeding with the matter, Barron said. The hope is to discuss with the agency an alternate site, which could be on a city-owned site just two blocks away on East 105th Street. But Keith Kalb, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, said the project—at East 107th Street—is alive and well. “It is not off the table,” he said. “We still have a school proposed for that site in the application process right now,” Kalb said. The project includes demolishing an existing building on the site and constructing a four-story, multi-million-dollar school serving students in grades kindergarten through eight. Late last year, Frederick Maley, a senior manager with the SCA, said his agency was negotiating to purchase the property from Yeshiva R’tzahd-Hebrew Academy of Brooklyn. The price was not disclosed. Funding for the new school would come from the Department of Education’s five-year, $13.1 billion capital plan. State Senator Carl Kruger, who has also opposed the East 107th Street location, said that when alternative sites were suggested to the SCA, “They really couldn’t make a strong argument that they did a due diligence effort.” “It’s the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. Kruger said he was not yet convinced the project is completely pulled, as the agency has yet to announce this in writing. Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano said that her board had been working with Barron to suggest alternatives to the East 107th Street site. “We vehemently opposed it,” she said. “They still have not demonstrated the need for it.” Region 6 Superintendent Gloria Buckery tried to impress upon the community board the pressing need for the new school, but failed. Last December, the board unanimously rejected the proposal, arguing that the SCA failed to consider other sites, and that the agency was playing fast and loose with taxpayer dollars. Turano had praise for the efforts of the city lawmaker. “Score one for Councilman Barron,” she said.