Pols, community leaders oppose plan for high school on Linden Place

By Madina Toure

Elected officials and civic leaders say they are against an SCA proposal to build a high school on Linden Place in Flushing in an area they say has many facilities and traffic problems.

The School Construction Authority announced a plan to convert 30-48 Linden Place—a building that currently houses offices for Community School District 25 Superintendent Danielle Dimango, District 25 staff and the community education council —into High School 859.

In a letter dated May 27 to City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing)said residents told him maintenance workers on the site were seen removing furniture for a new high school despite being told by the DOE that the plan was not being pursued.

Justin Brannan, deputy director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, responded to Koo’s letter June 23 confirming that the building is being converted into a high school at Farina’s request.

Brannan also noted that because the DOE owns the building, it is not required to participate in a public process and that a portion of the building is being used as an alternate learning center for high school students.

Koo said there is a need for a good high school in Flushing but that another location should be considered, saying he needs more details.

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions,” he said.

The plan is in the design phase. Construction would start next summer and be done in 2019, according to Arlene Fleishman, president of the Mitchell-Linden Civic Association, who served on the District 25 school board for nearly 28 years.

The plan was in the amended version of the Board of Education’s 2015-2019 budget and was up for a vote before the Panel for Educational Policy June 23, she said.

Fleishman said she understands the issue of overcrowded schools but noted that 31st Road, the community’s main thoroughfare, has many facilities, including nursery schools, senior centers and hotels, which draw traffic.

There are two public schools on 31st Road that are four blocks apart, PS 214 and PS 242.

Fleishman criticized the lack of publicity about the plan.

“I think they were trying to just push this through the PEP without anybody knowing about it,” she said.

The city Department of Education said it will work with the community to formalize the proposal.

“We are working hard to address overcrowding in Queens high schools by creating new capacity,” Jason Fink, the DOE’s deputy press secretary, said. “We will engage with the community in planning what types of programs would best serve the needs of students.”

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) also noted Linden Place’s narrow width and proximity to the highway.

“Nobody is opposed to schools,” Stavisky said. “This is not a knee-jerk reaction to progress. This is just the wrong place for it.”

Community Board 7 said it could not comment on the plan as it has not been presented to them yet.

The building had been empty for years, according to Fleishman.

Because the developer owed roughly $7 million in back taxes, the city took over the building and gave it to the Board of Education.

“Now they just want to turn it over to a high school and they feel they can do it because they own the building,” Fleishman said.

In a letter dated June 22 to Lorraine Grillo, SCA’s president and CEO, Stavisky asks for more information about the specific plans for the proposed high school, inquiring about the role of the community in the decision-making process and what would happen to the current occupants.

Stavisky had previously written to Grillo in March but did not receive a response.

In 2007, the DOE rejected a similar proposal after residents said the site was unsuitable for a high school over concerns about increased traffic, student safety and overburdening the area’s resources.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.