BY DOMENICK RAFTER
Editor in Chief
After over a decade of searching for a site, the city Department of Education has finally locked down a location for a much-needed new high school in Northeast Queens.
The Bayside Jewish Center, which closed in February due to declining membership, is being sold to the Schools Construction Authority to be the site of the new school, according to Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside).
“It wasn’t a secret that the SCA was looking for a site within our district, but as of today we’ve been notified that the purchase of the Bayside Jewish Center is being finalized and is under contract. There is no denying the overwhelming demand facing our district with regard to a long overdue high school for our students and community, but there is also never going to be a perfect place to build one. However, I am glad to see millions of our taxpayer’s dollars being spent within my district for the betterment of our students,” Vallone said in the statement.
After the center announced its closure in February, Community Board 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman suggested the site for a public school, though not specifically a high school, to Borough President Melinda Katz.
The battle over siting the needed high school in Northeast Queens has been a long one that goes back over 10 years. The current site of Star Nissan on 172nd Street north of Northern Boulevard was an early location that was shot down by residents. A site on 6th Avenue and Powells Cove Boulevard in Whitestone was also eyed by the SCA in 2013. That site, which was once home to the Cresthaven Country Club, was sold last month to a developer who promised to build single-family homes on lot.
Sources at the DOE said in 2013 that they specifically were looking at the Whitestone and College Point neighborhoods as a site because there was no high school there.
Vallone, who opposed the Whitestone site for the high school, reiterated that he wanted to see the SCA engage the community in the plans for the school.
“What is critical now is making sure that the community and community boards are involved in every step of the way and that we work closely with the SCA to minimize the impact to the surrounding neighborhood,” he added.
The Jewish Center location, at 203-05 32nd Ave. is adjacent to the Bayside High School athletic fields and only four blocks from Bayside High School itself.
The Bayside Jewish Center first opened in 1938, several blocks east of its current site. In 1958, the original synagogue was condemned to make way for the Clearview Expressway. The new building opened two years later. Its cornerstone was quarried in Jerusalem.
According to the synagogue’s website, it has hosted several big names over the years including former President Jimmy Carter, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and vocal duet Steve and Edyie.
It has been home to the Lowell School since 1968, which announced it would be relocating to the former Garden Jewish Center at Parsons and Willets Point boulevards in Flushing.