By Tom Momberg
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) rallied alongside civic leaders and community leaders outside the Bayside Jewish Center last week in a renewed call on the state Legislature to pass his legislation requiring community input prior to the selection of sites for future schools.
The bill, S.5387, passed with a majority in the state Senate in mid-June before the recess. It was delivered to the Assembly by Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) the same day, but there was not enough time for it to be passed before recess.
The bill will come up under the review of the Assembly’s Education Committee when lawmakers return, so several civic leaders and concerned residents intend to remind the surrounding communities and the Legislature that the current school selection process does not do enough to consult the public.
The bill would require a school district or the School Construction Authority to provide local officials and community boards with a detailed analysis of the proposed school site prior to finalizing any purchase.
With three specific sites in mind, Avella and many of his constituents have been concerned the city’s SCA was sidestepping potential community reservations when selecting the Bayside Jewish Center at 203-05 32nd Ave., and former Keil Brothers Garden Center, Keil Bros. Garden Center at 210-11 48th Ave., for new schools in Bayside, in addition to the site in Flushing at 30-48 Linden Place, already owned by the city Department of Education.
“All three sites are examples of the dictatorial attitude of the (SCA). We live in, and I represent, probably the two highest-performing school districts in the city,” Avella said at the rally. “People move here because they know we have great schools. Having said that, it does not mean that we will turn a blind eye to anything the SCA wants to do and pluck down in the middle of an inappropriate site, a new school.”
Each site drew immense criticism from their respective communities due to traffic and safety concerns, the potential effect on adjacent property values and their close proximity to existing school sites.
Paul Graziano, a member of the Bayside Historical Society and career urban planner, joined Arlene Fleishman, president of the Mitchell-Linden Civic Association, to express support for Avella’s bill.
“Coming from a planning perspective, part of planning is consultation with the community, coming up with a consensus and figuring out what the best place is for new facilities,” Graziano said. “What this comes down to is how can an administration just drop giant facilities in the middle of low-density neighborhoods?”
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb