By Bill Parry
Borough President Melinda Katz joined City Councilman Costa Constantinides in Woodside Monday to announce that all 11 classroom trailers will be removed at the end of the year from the PS 151 playground, which will be updated to bring increased recreational space for students and the community. At its April policy meeting, the Panel for Educational Policy will vote to approve the resiting of PS Q255, which serves autistic students between the ages of 5 and 17, which is co-located at PS 151’s building but occupies the trailers in the playground.
“Our community has long advocated for the removal of trailers from the PS 151 playground to create more much-needed outdoor space and to find a permanent learning space for Q225 students,” Constantinides said. “We have been working with our partners, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and School Construction Authority President Lorraine Grillo, to find a long-term solution. Our students require permanent educational space that’s indoors, rather than in temporary units or trailers. All children should have adequate recreational and playground space.”
Originally built as temporary units to house nearly 120 students due to overcrowding, the classroom trailers frequently lack ventilation, heat and bathrooms. Many trailers were built to be in service for a decade but most are used for years after their expiration date.
Constantinides and Katz repeatedly heard from constituents, parents, educators and students about the need to remove the trailers and reopen the playground for physical activity. The resiting provides Q255 students with permanent instructional space and improved learning conditions at the PS Q397 building.
“Classroom trailers should never be a permanent solution to school overcrowding,” Katz said. “We are thrilled for the students and teachers of PS 255 who will be able to resume in real school buildings.”
There is currently only a pre-K program at Q397, site of the former Most Precious Blood Catholic school. All instructional and extracurricular activities offered to Q255 students would continue at the new permanent, long-term learning space.
“We are thrilled to support two schools today by providing PS Q255 students with improved facilities and removing the TCUs from the outdoor space at PS 151, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with families throughout this process,” Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose said. “This is part of our ongoing work to remove TCUs and we remain dedicated to continuing this work across the city.”
Meanwhile, Constantinides announced voting on how to spend $1 million on local projects through Participatory Budgeting will commence later this month. Ballot proposals include solar panels for the Queens Library on Steinway Street, a fitness upgrade at Whitey Ford Field, a new research center at Q300/PS 17, increased lighting at the Astoria Houses parking lot, and neighborhood wayfinding maps on Hoyt Avenue and 31st Street.
“I am proud once again to provide our residents with the chance to help decide how to invest $1 million in our neighborhood,” Constantinides said. “This rewarding opportunity brings the city budget process directly to our community members, and keeps the community civically engaged.”
All the project proposals on the ballot were created by community volunteers. This past fall nearly 700 residents attended neighborhood assemblies and idea collection assemblies, and more than 600 ideas were brainstormed.
“I thank everyone who joined the committees, who submitted projects, and who discussed and debated these proposals over the last few months,” Constantinides said. “I’m looking forward to seeing which proposals the community likes best.”
Residents can cast their ballots at various locations around the district from March 25 to April 2. Voting will begin at Constantinides’ office at 31-09 Newtown Street in Astoria March 25 from noon to 6 p.m. For more information on other locations call 718-274-4500.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr