BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
The New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) Director of External Affairs Michael Mirisola and community relations specialist Ben Goodman presented the latest update on Queens’ school construction projects at the borough board meeting on Monday night.
In attendance was Borough President Melinda Katz; council members Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) and Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens); and Community Board 12 Chairwoman Adrian Adams, among others.
The 44-slide presentation discussed the latest update of the five-year, $14.9 billion three-part capital plan for fiscal years 2015-2019 to construct and repair schools, create Pre-Ks and remove trailers. Prior to January 2016, the budget was $13.5 billion, but with contributions through Fiscal Year 2016 Resolution A, hurricane Sandy reimbursement, the renewal of school-based health centers, and proposed additional funding, the SCA was able to receive an extra $1.4 billion.
As of March 2016, the capital plan’s New Capacity Program’s funding consists of 44,348 seats distributed to 80 buildings citywide. Seventy-six of those buildings will be primary or elementary schools, totaling 41,201 seats; the other four will be middle or high school buildings, totaling 3,147 seats.
In District 24, 4,885 seats have been funded and an additional 4,534 seat funding is needed; in District 25, 2,221 seats have been funded and an additional 2,902 seat funding is needed; in District 26, 924 seats have been funded and an additional 1,580 seat funding is needed; in District 27, 972 seats have been funded and an additional 764 seat funding is needed; in District 28, 1,920 seats have been funded and an additional 1,718 seat funding is needed; and in District 30, 4,536 seats have been funded and an additional 1,439 seat funding is needed.
Two Queens high schools have received 2,802 seats funded: IS/HS 336, which is set to open in September 2018; and Academy of American Studies, which is set to open in September 2020. Although these are additional seats, Queens high schools still have a 4,078 seat need. The SCA was also able to fund 2,831 Pre-K seats throughout the borough.
Through the $5.6 billion Capital Improvement Program — which includes upgrades to the building systems, exterior or interior site improvements, the addition of fire alarms and public-address systems, athletic field upgrades, and the removal of transportable classroom units (TCUs) — $1.4 billion will go towards school enhancements. These include a middle-school science lab upgrade initiative; upgrades to make schools more accessible; upgrades to bathrooms; technology upgrades; and upgrades to gyms, libraries and auditoriums.
Of the $3.7 billion that will go towards mandated programs, things that the SCA must do by code, are PCB lighting replacements, boiler conversions, wrap-up insurance and prior plan completion.
Thus far, the SCA was able to identify 52 TCUs that need to be removed, aside from the 17 they had already removed from Queens.
After the SCA’s presentation, the floor was open to questions, giving elected officials the opportunity to address school needs in their neighborhoods. Lancman asked about the status of TCUs in District 29’s P.S. 131, to which Mirisola replied that it is on the “in-process list.”
Another issue that came up concerned the use of playground space for construction purposes. Given that the SCA uses playgrounds to store construction materials or for extensions to the school, children lose that play space. It was recommended that the SCA work with the Department of Transportation to see if it would be willing to designate a street to be used as a play space at a set time.
Katz, who is the mother of a kindergartner, also suggested that the SCA look into putting hand-washing stations in every elementary school.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org