Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides held a joint event with the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority on April 25 to announce that a new brick-and-mortar building housing 476 students will replace the trailer classrooms at P.S. 85, the Judge Charles Vallone School.
Removing these trailers will clear the 22nd Council District, which Constantinides represents, of all such temporary classrooms, which have been much maligned for lacking proper heating, cooling and other basic amenities for students.
“I remember this trailer when it got really cold one year and the heating system froze out,” said Constantinides, pointing to the trailers at P.S. 85 where his son attended pre-K and kindergarten. “They had to divide up the classes because there was nothing else they could do. And [my son] said ‘Daddy, I’m in fourth grade now.’”
In addition to the environmental improvements, the annex building will provide desperately needed relief for the school’s overcrowding. P.S. 85 currently operates at 140% capacity. It falls into Community School District 30, which is tied with three others for the seventh most overcrowded school district in the city, according to a report the City Council released in 2018.
The new building will nearly double the school’s capacity. The school currently has more than 100 pre-K and kindergarten students having class in trailers. The transportable classroom units (TCU), as they are officially called, were originally intended to be short-term facilities, but have been in place for over 20 years.
“As part of the School Construction Authority’s (SCA) steadfast commitment to remove all TCUs across the City, 94 TCUs have been removed in Queens, and an additional 31 have been identified for removal,” said Lorraine Grillo, president and CEO of the SCA.
The event serves as a benchmark for Constantinides. “All of the four schools that had these trailers, these transportable classrooms – we have a plan to remove each and every one of them,” he said.
Constantinides announced in 2017 that a modular building at P.S. 2 in East Elmhurst will be replaced with a permanent facility. He has also partnered with Grillo and Borough President Melinda Katz to close trailers at P.S. 151 in Woodside and P.S. 70 in Astoria.
Construction for the annex at P.S. 85, which is currently in the design phase, is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2020 and complete in 2023. Grillo said that the SCA did not have an estimate of the cost yet.
The plan features 24 new classrooms, including seven for kindergarten and pre-K, a gymnasium-auditorium, exercise room, cafeteria and kitchen.
“No longer will any child in this Council District have to shiver through a math lesson with his or her coat on, or suffer through hot temperatures in one of these trailers,” said Constantinides.