By Patrick Donachie
A ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the opening of a new sports complex at the Frank A. Padavan Campus in Glen Oaks was moved inside Saturday morning due to downpours, but the spirits of the students, teachers and parents in the auditorium were not dampened.
“No matter whether it rains, sleets or snows, it’s a beautiful day,” said Jae Hyun Cho, the principal of Queens High School for Teaching, Liberal Arts and the Sciences. “After 13 years, we have a home field.”
The grounds include a new football field, a 400m track and a baseball diamond, and the opening of the new complex marked the culmination of long negotiations between city and state government, the city’s School Construction Authority, community members and elected officials to build the fields for the campus, which includes three schools. Students and parents of PS/IS 208, PS/IS 266 and the Queens High School of Teaching, along with teachers, administrators, and current and former elected officials crowded the auditorium for an array of speakers and performances.
Former state Sen. Frank Padavan recalled the many negotiations that led to the initial construction of the campus, and remembered a meeting in 1998 about a new facility for the three schools with Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and Mark Weprin, who was the area’s city councilman at the time. The facility itself opened six years later, though it took until 2016 to open the sports fields. “Certainly in the city of New York, there’s nothing like it,” Padavan said, “and probably the state.”
The ceremony also included remarks from state Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Laurelton), City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), and former New York Jets fullback Tony Richardson, who helped to present a check to the DOE and Public School Youth Football Programs for $200,000 on behalf of the Jets’ philanthropic foundation. He said he had marveled at the size and grandeur of the grounds when he had entered that morning.
“Is this a hospital or a college?” he recalled saying to himself. “No, this is a high school, and you guys should be proud of that.”
After the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, students, parents and audience members were invited to see the new sports complex for themselves. By the time the crowds reached the fields, the storm had downgraded to a drizzle.
Excited students rushed the newly opened grounds as soon as the gates were opened. Students took off in sprints around the track and tossed footballs to each other. Even a fencing team from Queens High School of Teaching brought their equipment to the opening for several jousts.
Robert Alberti, the parent of a child who attends PS/IS 208, recalled that the neighboring Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital still owned several small buildings that had stood on the grounds of the new field as late as 2007. After they were razed, the construction of the complex occurred in less than two years’ time.
“This is kind of unheard of in Queens,” he said.
Marie Slaughter, whose child Antoinette isin fifth grade at PS/IS 208, spoke encouragingly about how the new fields would strengthen the bonds between the schools sharing the campus.
“This will be an opportunity for physical empowerment,” she said. “All the schools on this campus will get to share.”
Cho arrived at the fields minutes after they first opened, and proudly surveyed the scene. He said that the best result to the long and painstaking process of opening the complex was to see students enjoying them for the very first time.
“In my mind, this is what I envisioned,” he said. “That vision has become a reality.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona