Electeds, SCA Clash Over High School Site

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

A war of words has broken out between the School Construction Authority and northeast Queens elected officials over a proposed site for a new high school.

Three State legislators joined to write a letter to the SCA, expressing their opposition to the former site of the Cresthaven Country Club, at 150-33 6th Ave., Whitestone, being used for a new high school. The SCA responded by saying that the agency is taking a “serious look” at the site in question, but has not made a final decision.

On Nov. 20, State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and School Construction Authority president Lorraine Grillo, stating their disagreement with the site as a school location, due to a lack of infrastructure or adequate public transportation. Enclosed with the letter was a petition of 1,600 signatures in opposition to the site being used for a school.

 This plot of land, located at 150th Street and 6th Avenue in Whitestone, has been the center of a clash between the School Construction Authority and elected officials on whether it is a good site for a high school. Photo by Joe Marvilli


This plot of land, located at 150th Street and 6th Avenue in Whitestone, has been the center of a clash between the School Construction Authority and elected officials on whether it is a good site for a high school. Photo by Joe Marvilli

In the SCA’s response sent Dec. 11, Grillo said that available land to build new schools is very limited in the “heavily-populated” residential area of School District 25. She said that Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) was the one who suggested the location to the SCA, a notion that frustrated Avella.

“It’s nice to know the community was sold out once again by a councilmember. What amazes me is the SCA, knowing he’s been indicted, would even respect his opinion to go out and look at the site,” he said. “I’m not happy this is on their radar.”

Grillo said that such a large site (4.68 acres) does not come up often and the SCA had to take a serious look at the land that would easily fit a high school and surrounding outdoor recreational space.

“We are in the process of conducting our due diligence and will take all factors into consideration when determining whether to move forward,” the SCA said in a statement.

Despite the agency saying it welcomed any suggestions for alternate sites, Avella said that the SCA’s move implies that it thinks it knows better than the community and its leaders.

“It’s about time SCA started listening to us,” he said. “We want to help instead of having something rammed down everyone’s throats.”

While the three electeds said there is a need for more schools in the overcrowded School District 25, they said that site would also have a negative impact on the quality of life in the community.

“The community made their intentions very clear about not wanting a school there,” Scott Wolff, director of constituent services for Simanowitz, said. “We’re working with the community to make sure that wherever the school may be placed is an appropriate site.”

All three elected officials indicted their willingness to sit down with the SCA and community leaders to find a better site going forward.

“Northeast Queens does need a new high school. There’s no doubt about it,” Braunstein said. “I’m sure we can find a site that’s more appropriate.”

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