Hunters Pt. awaits new schools in 2013

Hunters Pt. awaits new schools in 2013
Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

Education and elected officials announced at MoMA PS 1 last week that two new schools are set to open in Hunters Point, adding much-needed seats to the growing neighborhood, but some parents were still worried their children would not have a spot.

“Two new schools is great,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). “It’s a great victory for our community, but I believe we need even more schools.”

About 200 parents filled the performance dome of the art museum, once a school, at 46-01 21st St. in Long Island City, for the town hall Oct. 17. The officials answered questions about the new schools scheduled to open in the neighborhood in September 2013: PS/IS 312, at 46-08 5th St., and IS/HS 404, at 150 51st St. PS/IS 312 will have 542 seats and IS/HS 404 will have 1,072 seats.

“We are roughly half-way through the construction,” said Gordon Tung, of the city School Construction Authority.

Rebecca Rawlins, of the city Department of Education’s Office of Portfolio Planning, said in accordance with the community’s wishes PS 78, at 48-09 Center Blvd. in Long Island City, will be relocated at PS/IS 312 with the same administration. It will open in 2013 as a K-6 school, with the seventh- and eighth-grades added in ensuing years.

IS/HS 404 said the current plan is to make the middle school zoned but the high school open to students from across the city, Rawlins said. While the middle school will take in students when it opens in 2013, its zone will not be implemented until 2014.

“We will work with [Community District Education Council 30] to zone the school,” Rawlins said.

Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said given the school’s proximity to the waterfront, he hoped IS/HS 404 would have an emphasis on the environment and sustainability.

But a fair number of parents said that while the current administration has opened high schools based around a theme rather than a geographic location, they would like Long Island City students to get priority rather than have it be a themed school.

“That’s definitely still an option on the table,” Rawlins said.

She said the new school administration works with the department to create a vision for the school.

Many parents who have children entering kindergarten or even pre-kindergarten worried there would be shortfalls as new families moved into the burgeoning neighborhood despite assurances otherwise.

“Everyone here is muttering under their breath, ‘Yeah, right,’” said real estate agent Joanna Stark, who has a daughter preparing to enter kindergarten.

Monica Gutierrez, of the SCA, said student population for a neighborhood is calculated on a year-by-year basis. She said the organization cannot build on the basis of new apartments since a housing bust such as one that happened in the Rockaways could mean completed residences would not be filled.

“We can’t go ahead and start building without knowing,” she said.

But Van Bramer and others said they shared the community’s concern.

“I don’t think what happened in the Rockaways is going to happen here,” Van Bramer said. “Now is the time to be siting a new school.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.