Community loses patience with DOE

Over a hundred local residents and community leaders gathered outside the old Region 3 headquarters of the New York City Department of Education (DOE) in Flushing recently, to do some lecturing of their own.
The group rallied at the 30-48 Linden Place site, in the shadow of the Whitestone Expressway, to renew their opposition to DOE plans to build two high schools at the location.
Since the DOE and School Construction Authority (SCA) suggested the site nearly a year ago, the community has expressed fierce opposition to the choice, citing the severe traffic problems that already plague the immediate area, and the proximity of dangerous distractions, like a nearby pool hall and amusement arcade.
The Mitchell-Linden community is an extensive complex of high-rise dwellings with an aging population, which borders Linden Place, immediately across from the proposed high schools, and residents there are irate.
“Bringing 1,000 students to an overcrowded, congested area… is beyond realism” said Arlene Fleishman, former president of the District 25 School Board and current President of Linden Towers #4. “Don’t sell our kids short. Give them a real high school with full accommodations,” she said.
Pauline Chu, a member of the current Community District Education Council 25 agreed. “(They) need the best high school possible and that requires space - space that the Linden Place site simply doesn’t offer.”
Tempers have been simmering since a May 31 meeting between some 500 community members and representatives of the city.
At that meeting, Deputy Mayor Dennis Wolcott told the assembly that the DOE and SCA would consider any reasonable suggestion for locating a new school.
The one parcel that local elected officials, civic activists and residents have been advocating early and often is 131-35 Avery Avenue, not far from the Linden Place site.
The property is currently occupied by a Home Depot, and has been reported to be vacating next year. The land is removed from downtown Flushing’s high-density residential blocks, and adjacent to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
In contrast, the Linden Place address is within sight of a bowling alley, a liquor store and a pool hall.
The total area of the Linden Place lot is 45,600 square feet. The Home Depot building is more than three times the size - more than 155,000 square feet. However, the city already owns the former, and would have to purchase the latter.
At the May meeting, a SCA spokesperson cautioned that it would be unwise to herald a city offer on the property with great fanfare, commenting that “when you advertise that the city wants some property, all you do is drive the price up.”
The appeal of that reasoning is fading away with time.
Councilmember John Liu was at the May meeting, and made it clear his patience was nearing an end. “The DOE’s Linden Place proposal is a cop-out solution half-baked,” Liu fumed. “(They) must see the golden opportunity at the Avery Avenue site to build a first-class high school campus that even the folks in Great Neck would envy.”
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky echoed Liu’s remarks, observing that “the Deputy Mayor is overdue by months getting back to all of us.”
Assemblymember Ann-Margaret Carrozza said, “It is difficult to understand why the DOE has not yet provided an update.”

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