Council Approves School For Bayside

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

Despite an outpouring of protests from the community, the City Council voted to approve a new school on a busy avenue in Bayside.

The City Council voted on Nov. 14 to create a new, 456-seat primary school at 210-07 48th Ave., Bayside. The property, known at the moment as the Keil Brothers Garden Center and Nursery, is being sold to the School Construction Authority to build the new facility.

The City Council recently approved a proposal to build a school at the site of Keil Brothers Garden Center in Bayside, despite numerous protests from residents and elected officials.  Photo by Ira Cohen

The City Council recently approved a proposal to build a school at the site of Keil Brothers Garden Center in Bayside, despite numerous protests from residents and elected officials. Photo by Ira Cohen

The Council approved the new school by a vote of 36-2, with only Councilmen Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) voting against it. Weprin had been outspoken against the site, due to the busyness of the surrounding streets.

“The Bayside community opposed the building of an elementary school on 48th Avenue because it would add to traffic congestion in a residential area,” he said. “The DOE should focus on providing additional resources to existing schools instead of building new ones.”

Community Board 11 was also vehemently against placing a school at that site. While many felt a new school was needed, the site was deemed inappropriate because of traffic conditions, parking problems and the school’s encroachment into residential backyards.

The differing viewpoints between CB11 and the SCA came to a head at a May 6 community board meeting, where SCA representatives first presented the plan. The meeting quickly became hostile, with shouting taking place between the public and the SCA members.

According to the SCA reps, some members of the public made threats against them after the meeting concluded. CB11 chair Jerry Iannece responded in a letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott that the SCA presentation was “condescending and at times, intimidating.”

As a result of the meeting, the SCA froze CB11 out of all further consideration or discussion for the site, a move that upset Iannece, along with the lack of Council support.

“We were specifically, unilaterally excluded from decision or input, which disheartens me,” he said. “We’ve voiced our opposition to it overwhelmingly. It is very disappointing that no one from the City Council contacted the community board.”

While State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) approached the Dept. of Education, asking them to meet with the community and figure out alternate sites, the SCA never got back to him. The senator was also disappointed with the City Council’s vote.

“They never followed up. I think it’s time for new leadership at the School Construction Authority. They have this attitude that they know what’s the best and the heck with the rest of us. That’s the attitude that has to change,” he said. “It’s an example of the DOE not doing its homework and the Council going along with the Mayor.”

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.