Community Board 7 voted against the School Construction Authority’s proposal for a new 572-seat public school in Bay Terrace on Monday, June 28, despite a growing need for primary school seats in School District 25.
Board members voted 23 against and 13 in favor of approving the site on a 44,000-square-foot vacant lot on the corner of Water’s Edge Drive and 24th Street. Critics of the plan cited various issues including lack of community input, increase in vehicular traffic and concerns of building a school in an area with a high water table.
According to a demographic analysis done by an SCA-funded consultant as well as data from the Departments of City Planning, Building and Housing Preservation and Development, CEC 25 is projected to have 22,908 students enrolled in pre-K through fifth grade, which translates to a potential increase of up to 4,653 students compared to current enrollment.
CB 7 Education Co-Chair Arlene Fleishman said that seven of the area schools in CEC 25 are “between 111 and 130 percent over-utilized” including the Bell Academy and P.S. 169, which are both undergoing expansion projects to accommodate more students.
“The 150 new seats are being added to each of those two schools and it will still be overcrowded. We cannot keep saying ‘not in my backyard,'” Fleishman said in her opening statement.
In order to alleviate overcrowding and building over-utilization, the Bay Terrace site and four others in Flushing, Whitestone and College Point are under consideration for the SCA to build schools for CEC 25.
A common concern amongst CB 7 members and attendees was that the proposed school would be built on land that often experiences flooding due to its proximity to Little Neck Bay.
“This is being built on swamp land,” one commenter said. “I don’t find this an ideal location, not because it is in my backyard but because it truly is not an ideal location. There are better locations that would service this need with better transportation.”
Others worried that a new school would create an influx of traffic on the already busy Water’s Edge Drive.
“The Towers at Water’s Edge use Water’s Edge Drive to enter [and] exit their garage; the traffic is constant. Again, where are you going to put the buses and the parents driving to pick up the kids? It’s a narrow road. Bad idea,” the commenter said.
Some were also concerned that the school construction would cause damage to nearby homes and apartments.
SCA representatives assured the community that they would take three to six months to conduct the proper environmental studies, taking into account the area’s noise, traffic, historical impacts and pollution, before moving forward.
Joseph Di Benedetto, CEC 25 president, said that he had “complete confidence in the SCA” and the work that they’ve done building other schools across the city.
“The community needs to stand up and defend and fight for the rights of students. I don’t see anyone here talking about what the children need, what our kids need,” Di Benedetto said. “Our kids are in desperate need of seats.”
SCA communications and external affairs manager Kevin Ortiz told Patch that the agency was “disappointed” CB 7 rejected the proposal since CEC 25 schools are overcrowded, especially in the sub district which includes Whitestone, College Point and Beechurst.
“We’ll continue to work with stakeholders and our partners at DOE to provide the seats and resources our students need and deserve,” Ortiz wrote in his statement.
The June 28 meeting was the first part of the SCA’s public process in engaging the community and addressing their questions and concerns. According to the agency, they will continue to accept comments on the proposal until July 20, 2021.
Anyone who wants to submit comments can do so directly to their office at 30-30 Thomson Ave. to Executive Vice President Steve Lawitts or emailed to email@example.com.