CB 11 votes against Bayside Jewish Center high school proposal

Community members showed up en masse to voice their disapproval to public presentation on a proposal which would put a 739-seat high school in the Bayside Jewish Center.
THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

The people have spoken.

Community Board 11 definitively opposed a proposal to install a 739-seat high school in the former Bayside Jewish Center, voting against it by 31-1 during the board’s meeting Monday night.

The general consensus was that while seats are desperately needed in School District 26, the School Construction Authority (SCA) should have consulted the community before committing to the lot on 203rd Street and 32nd Avenue.

“We don’t need bureaucrats coming here to tell us where to put schools,” said Steven Behar, a board member who has been on the education committee for five years. “We need more schools but we don’t need one in that spot.”

Community members showed up en masse to voice their own disapproval to the proposal during its public presentation, and the auditorium was densely packed with interested onlookers who clapped with each testimony.

Those who stood up to speak during the public participation segment echoed many of the same concerns mentioned in other rallies and public discussions, including fears of congestion on public buses, increased private vehicle traffic, potential future overcrowding in the proposed school and an increase in loitering teenagers after school hours.

State Senator Tony Avella also stood up to speak on the issue. He criticized the School Construction Authority (SCA) for continuing to move ahead with the plan despite the nearly universal objections from the community members and elected officials.

“This is not only a disgraceful proposal, it’s an entirely disgraceful process,” Avella said, adding that he believed SCA President Lorraine Grillo should be removed from her leadership position for overseeing the site selection.

The efforts of the community board, local officials and residents to stop the school from coming into Bayside may be for naught, however, according to representatives of the SCA.

SCA Project Support Manager Michael Mirasola said that as the agency has decided the site is appropriate for a school, it would be moving forward with the proposal even if it were rejected by the community board. The school must ultimately be approved by the City Council and the mayor before construction can begin.

“We will not be withdrawing it. We will be putting it to City Council for a vote,” Mirasola explained.