Wednesday, February 10, 2010

City Nears Deal to Buy Former Rite Aid Property

Ridgewood Site Eyed for New 600-Seat K-6 School

By Conor Greene

The city has reached an agreement to purchase the former Rite Aid property at Metropolitan Avenue and Tonsor Street in Ridgewood and plans to build a 600-seat school there to help alleviate local overcrowding.

A spokeswoman for the city Department of Education confirmed that the agency has “reached an agreement to buy the property” but was unable to reveal the purchase price until the deal is finalized. The plan is to build a K-6 school at the site, according to Community Board 5, which is holding a public hearing on the plan on February 24 at 7 p.m. in Grover Cleveland High School.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said she is “pleased” that the SCA is looking at potential locations in the area for new schools. “I will continue to work with the DOE, the SCA and the community to ensure this process is done with the best interests of the surrounding neighborhoods and for our future generations," she said.

The property, located near Grover Cleveland High School, most recently housed a Rite Aid pharmacy but has fallen into a state of disrepair over the past few years. It had been eyed as a potential location for a new supermarket, which is needed in the area, but was determined by one company to be too ex- pensive to modernize for that use.

It was one of several local sites identified by members of Community Education Council 24 to be included in the city’s upcoming five-year capital plan, according to the group’s president, Nick Comaianni. “This is a site we found a few years back and has stayed empty, so we told the SCA to pursue it for years,” he said. “It is a perfect site for a school - nice and big, the location is good on the main avenue and it’s in the right place to alleviate overcrowding in Ridgewood and Maspeth.”

The property measures about 100,000 square feet, meaning there is plenty of room for a building and other facilities such as a playground, said Comaianni. “To me, that’s going to be a great school,” he said, adding that it is accessed by a main road, meaning nearby residential areas wouldn’t be impacted by increased traffic. He recalled a number of chain stores failing at that location during his lifetime, including several supermarkets, and thinks it will be more appropriate for a school than another business.

Comaianni said CEC 24 has suggested several other local properties to the School Construction Authority as possible locations for schools, but he declined to specifically name them to preserve the city’s negotiating leverage. “What I’ve always pushed for with SCA is, when you find a spot, even if you don’t have the money to build on it now, purchase the property for the future,” he said. “Worst case scenario, the market is slow, so you can resell it as the market improves later on.”

The SCA is still finalizing the purchase agreement, and will need City Council approval to move forward with the deal, according to Crowley. It would take at least three years before the school is completed, said Comaianni, who added that the revised five-year capital plan still needs City Council approval as well.

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