BY JOE MARVILLI
A packed Community Board 7 meeting Monday night resulted in the approval of a school expansion.
The board’s monthly meeting, which took place on April 28, featured a lengthy public hearing on an application by Holy Cross Church to expand the Efstathios and Stamatiki Valiotis Greek-American Day School. More than 50 people from the parish lined the back of the room in a show of support for the measure.
The proposed enlargement would convert and slightly build upon an attic space to create a second floor of classrooms and fill in a setback on 12th Road to add additional space. The expansion will alleviate overcrowding, as some students are taught in trailers outside of the school.
Although this enlargement does not comply with the zoning of the neighborhood, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act federal law states that religious institutions cannot be restricted by zoning laws. As long as the institution is not detrimental to its neighbors, it can supersede zoning regulations.
Board member Joseph Sweeney said the committee passed a motion approving the project, with several stipulations. The parish would post one-way signs for entrances and exits to its parking lot, which will also be where parents can drop off and pick up their kids. The kindergarten and first grade classes will be dismissed 15 minutes earlier. The school will put in a request for a stop sign and crossing guard.
While a few of the Holy Cross congregation spoke individually, many of them just said, “I concur” with those who support the construction. First vice chairperson Chuck Apelian also spoke in favor of the measure.
“This has been a spirit of amazing cooperation,” he said.
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) also stopped by to express his backing of the application.
“The applicants who are here from Holy Cross have done their due diligence,” he said. “This is a Whitestone school. It has Whitestone residents, Bayside residents.”
The measure was approved by the full board to deafening applause.
CB7 also discussed, and ultimately approved, a special permit application submitted by the Local 30 International Union of Operating Engineers. The union was looking to alter and enlarge its building at 16-16 Whitestone Expy., as they are relocating their main office there.
The building was purchased last year by Local 30, which wants to increase the square footage from 31,000 to just over 57,000 square feet.
Since the building is exclusively for office use, the amount of parking required would drop to 120 spaces, according to a parking study conducted by the union. Instead, the union is going to supply 138 spaces, with room for more if necessary.
The board meeting was also a sad moment for many, as longtime member Arthur Barragan stepped down for personal reasons. He had been a member of CB7 for the past 38 years. Vallone presented Barragan with a citation for his years of service.
“You’re one of the founding members on Community Board 7. You worked with Chuck [Apelian] as we built up the zoning committee up to what it is,” Chairman Gene Kelty said. “I cannot thank you enough on behalf of this board for what you did.”
Barragan was overcome with emotion when he stepped up to say his goodbyes, thanking his fellow members for all they have done over the years.
“I’ve seen many board members that I used to know here that are gone. Some have passed away,” he said. “With my deepest regrets, I’m leaving the board. Thank you very much for your support.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.