By Naeisha Rose
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and community board chairs were at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens Monday to listen to representatives from the School Construction Authority elaborate on how they intend to spend $15.5 billion in capital projects over the course of five to 10 years in Queens.
The developments were broken up into capital investments ($6 billion), capacity projects ($5.9 billion), and mandated programs ($3.6 billion), according to SCA Community Relations Manager Ben Goodman.
Overall, these projects will add 8,300 pre-K seats, provide Hurricane Sandy upgrades, expand K-12 classrooms and buildings, create new schools, make centralized schools storm ready as shelters, update masonry and upgrade school facilities, according to SCA Director of External Affairs Michael Mirisola.
The initial five-year capital plan had projects for 2015 to 2019 at $14.9 billion, but with the ever-expanding technological needs for schools built as far back as the 1950s, expansions for pre-K programs, the daily changes to the immigration populations in schools, and the need for hurricane shelters resulted in a $600 million amendment increase to the budget in February 2017, according to the SCA reps.
“We have immigration issues that are changing daily,” Mirisola said. “So every year we do have to plan an amendment and every year we refine those things because they change, year by year.”
To date, there have been 65 temporary classrooms removed from over 20 schools, according to Goodman. There are 40 still in the process of being removed at 17 schools.
Three new schools opened in September: PS 298 in Corona, PS 332 in Flushing and PS 335 in Ozone Park. Additions to schools also opened up in Middle Village and Woodside (PS/IS 49, IS 125 and PS11).
PS 128 and PS 143 in Middle Village and Flushing should be completed in September 2020 after new classroom additions were incorporated in designs for the schools, according to Goodman. Construction of new additions to PS 19 and PS 24 should be completed in September 2018 in Corona and Flushing. The new additions to PS 66, PS 144, PS 303 in Richmond Hill and Forest Hills should be completed in September 2019.
Two new schools in Flushing, IS/HS 336 and PS 398, should be completed in September 2018 and September 2019. The Academy of American Studies in Long Island City is expected to open in 2021 now that the design for the school is completed.
Pre-schools at 123-07 22 Ave. in Flushing and 27-35 Jackson Ave. in Long Island City were opened in September.
There were Hurricane Sandy Projects at PS 207 in Howard Beach to upgrade a heating plant and at Beach Channel High School to fix the athletic field.
The last two projects on the agenda are for exterior masonry work, a parapet replacement and flood elimination work at PS 127 in East Elmhurst, and a gym upgrade for Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows.
Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. brought up the concern over the student population aging out of schools by 2030, according to the U.S. Census, possibly rendering useless the new 9,144 seats that will be created in those classrooms.
“What are your plans for adaptive reuse or disposal of those excess use in 2030?” asked Arcuri.
The SCA representatives were prepared to tackle the issue.
“I’m thinking senior-citizen housing,” Mirisola said.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose