By Bill Parry
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed off on legislation last week that gives the city a green light to build a new state-of-the-art pre-K center at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadow Corona Park. The pre-K Center, near the intersection of 111th Street and 46th Avenue, will be dedicated to science, technology, engineering, art and math.
“This project will provide over 300 seats, helping move our 4-year-olds out of trailers and into a new, state-of-the-art pre-K Center,” City Hall spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said. “We’re so excited to get started.”
The pre-K center will create a partnership between the city’s Department of Education and the New York Hall of Science on programming and students will be frequent visitors to the museum, using it as a learning lab. The center will be built upon a parking lot adjacent to the Hall of Science on what is public parkland.
In April, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz urged the city to seek the necessary approval from the state Legislature pursuant to the Public Trust Doctrine, which establishes that parks and other natural resources should be preserved for public enjoyment and that alienation of parkland must be authorized by the Albany body. State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) drafted the legislation in June that Cuomo signed into law Nov. 30.
“The city received the necessary legal approval from the state Legislature to utilize the public parkland in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which currently houses the New York Hall of Science due to a similar alienation granted decades ago,” Katz said. “Proceeding otherwise would have set a dangerous precedent. The use of public parkland must go through proper channels, even by the city of New York. The action effectively creates hundreds of new pre-K seats with STEM curriculum, and it was critical to follow the proper procedure of the public trust doctrine in the interest of protecting public parkland from unfettered development.”
Peralta applauded Cuomo for signing his bill into law, which will help alleviate the chronic school overcrowding that has plagued his district for decades. The facility’s 306 seats eliminates nearly 60 percent of the neighborhood needs.
“It is unthinkable that in 2017 New York City children are learning in classrooms trailers, and this is why the construction of a state-of-the-art pre-K school next to the Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park will benefit the community,” Peralta said. “We are talking about the use of one acre of parkland, which is currently a parking lot. More than 300 new seats in a space that is used for cars will now be available for children from Corona, which is one of the most overcrowded areas in the entire city of New York.”
Construction is expected to be completed in 2020. The city will allocate $20 million for park-related improvements and it will come up with an acre of parkland in return taking for the parcel next to the New York Hall of Science.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr