By Tom Momberg
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) is introducing legislation to reform the site selection process for new schools in city school districts.
He was joined by about 75 civic leaders and other members of the Bayside community Thursday to rally against a proposed new high school that provoked the legislation.
The city School Construction Authority announced last week it was finalizing a purchase agreement with the Bayside Jewish Center at 203-05 32nd Ave. for a new high school in northeast Queens.
The sudden community notice on the new plan was the second such controversial school proposal in Bayside, following the city’s 2013 plan to build a new elementary school at the former Keil Bros. Garden Center at 210-11 48th Ave.
The city agency’s repeated pattern of sidestepping initial community input for school site selection is what Avella and several members of the community called “ludicrous” when they gathered at the Jewish center to express opposition.
Like the Keil Bros. site, the Bayside Jewish Center is in close proximity to other schools, including PS 159, a private school and the Bayside High School athletic fields. Potential additional traffic congestion and the small size of the proposed lot were of the other primary concerns the protesters raised.
The SCA did not release any feasibility studies or environmental surveys to the public prior to its announcement that it would purchase the 32nd Avenue one-acre lot.
Avella is currently seeking additional senators from the city to sign on to his bill as sponsors. The bill would require a school district or the SCA to provide local officials and community boards with a detailed analysis of the proposed school site prior to finalizing any purchase.
“The city should not be operating that way,” Avella said. “And considering the tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, it should be spent in a way that is transparent and we (should) make sure that if we find a site and agree on a site, that it is the best site.”
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb