Bayside protests proposed school on 48th Avenue

Photo by Phil Corso
By Phil Corso

The city was days away from pushing forward a widely unpopular plan to build a new primary school in Bayside when political opposition put the vote on hold, officials said.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) scheduled a news conference for last Friday to oppose the 416-seat elementary school just days before the City Council was to vote on the plan.

But the city Education Department rescinded the vote and instead booked a sitdown with northeast Queens officials to mull over the proposal, Avella said.

The Council will make the ultimate call on the plan, but not until the DOE has its scheduled discussion with borough representatives, an Education Department spokeswoman said.

“The city cannot just roll over our community. We want to be a part of the discussion,” Avella said. “The community has said outright that this project does not make any sense. We’re going to push back.”

The elected officials stood in front of the proposed site —Keil Bros. Garden Center, at 210-11 48th Ave. — with the sounds of city buses chugging behind them. They said the site was inappropriate for both potential students and the tight-knit and already busy residential streets there. It is just blocks away from two other schools: MS 158 on nearby Oceania Street, and PS 31 off Bell Boulevard on 46th Road.

“This community has spoken loud and clear,” Rozic said. “We cannot afford to pit neighbor against neighbor, pushing through policies and projects that will have a significant impact on communities without sound educational plans for their longterm success.”

And though the officials said they were glad to see the DOE publicly agree to a more in-depth discussion, Avella noted that no representative from Community Board 11 was invited to the table.

The DOE did not comment on the exclusion of the board.

The community was first made aware of the city’s intentions in May to build a 416-seat primary school at the Keil Bros. site, whose owners said they were preparing to sell the property due to a declining economy. Members of the city School Construction Authority visited CB 11 that month and were at the center of a contentious meeting at which the board voted 25-3 with nine abstentions against the proposal.

The gathering became so heated at points that city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott accused board Chairman Jerry Iannece of allowing the discussion to disintegrate into a free-for-all with at least one member making threats of violence. Iannece defended the board in his rebuttal, adding that city representatives used threats of their own, suggesting the school was an ideal choice if compared to what else might move into the location, such as a drug rehabilitation clinic.

Henry Euler, of the Auburndale Improvement Association, spoke for several CB 11 members when he recommended that the DOE should return PS 130 to northeast Queens’ District 26, where it once belonged. He and several others have been pulling for the move for years since the school was relocated in the more western-based District 25 to address overcrowding there.

“This site is not appropriate for a new school, as it borders 32 other homes,” Euler said. “Parking here is very hard to come by as well.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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