To The Editor:
The Auburndale Improvement Association’s boundaries overlap with the Northwest Bayside Civic Association in the area where the proposed new high school is located on the site of the Bayside Jewish Center. We support the civic and the surrounding community near the site in opposing the construction of this proposed high school.
At its monthly November meeting, Community Board 11 heard overwhelmingly from the residents near the site that they strongly oppose this new building. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) spoke eloquently against this project. U.S. Rep. Grace Meng and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein have sent in a joint letter to the School Construction Authority opposing the project. The Board subsequently voted against it almost unanimously. It was democracy in action.
There are many reasons why a high school on the Bayside Jewish Center site is the wrong choice. Thirty-second Avenue is already a busy street what with all of the other schools in the immediate area and the vehicular and bus traffic. The site itself is too small to support a high school of over 700 students. And the issue of parking for teachers and other staff members is a very pressing problem.
And then there is the question of enrollment figures. Students from outside the community choose and are accepted to attend our three local overcrowded public high schools (Bayside, Cardozo, Francis Lewis) because their own high schools are perceived by many as inferior and/or unsafe. The Department of Education should be concentrating on ensuring that all high schools are excellent and safe schools rather than putting the burden on our three local public high schools and packing them to overwhelming numbers. The new proposed high school would also be packed with students and would not alleviate the overcrowding at our current three local public high schools.
But perhaps the most important reason why this is not the correct place for a new high school is because the local residents just do not want a building of this potential magnitude in their neighborhood. They fear the impact that such a school would have on their community and on their quality of life as well as the property values of their homes. As taxpayers, local residents have a right to determine what goes in their neighborhood. And they certainly expressed their concern in huge numbers at the Community Board meeting.
The SCA has long been regarded as an agency that does as it pleases. The recently decided siting of an elementary school on the Keil property in Bayside underscores this perception. Instead of meeting with local residents, civic groups and others and discussing what type of school would be built in terms of programs and appearance, and how potential problems would be addressed, the SCA just decided to go ahead with the project with little public input. This time, there was a little more effort to contact the community around the Bayside Jewish Center site, however, that effort is still insufficient.
What should go at this proposed site? A lot of good alternatives were suggested at the Community Board meeting. This community needs a senior center and/or a community center. The current building on the site would be suitable for a number of different uses that would not negatively impact on the surrounding community, as a multi-story school would. But whatever goes there has to be presented to and approved by the local residents.
We urge local residents to continue to express their concerns against the project by contacting Council Member Vallone, sending in written comments to the SCA by Nov. 20, and attending and testifying at the City Council hearing regarding this project whenever it is conducted. It is important, as was mentioned by several civic leaders at the Community Board meeting, to follow through on objections to this project.
As a civic association, we stand by the residents and our colleagues at the Northwest Bayside Civic Association in opposing the construction of a high school on the Bayside Jewish Center site.
Terry Pouymari and Henry Euler,
President and first vice president,
Auburndale Improvement Association