Thursday, December 4, 2008

City to Unveil New Plans for Proposed Maspeth School

SCA to Present at January CB5 Meeting

By Conor Greene

After the first plan to build a large combined intermediate and high school in Maspeth was rejected by the local community board, the School Construction Authority will present revised plans to next month.

Despite the negative reaction the plan garnered when it was first presented earlier this year, a SCA officials told the audience at the November 25 Community Education Council 24 meeting that it will bring the revised plans to the City Council for approval, regardless of the reaction it receives from Community Board 5 in January.

The city first proposed building a 1,650-seat school at the former Restaurant Depot site at 74th Street and Grand Avenue to serve students in grades 6-12. In May, CB 5rejected the plan, which called for a 45,000-square-foot, four-story building. Concerns included the size of the building, whether it would be zoned exclusively for local children, and adding traffic to the already congested area.

At the November CEC 24 meeting in PS 58, Lorraine Grillo, executive director and chief of staff of the SCA said that “because of concerns we heard voiced very loudly from the community board, we went back to the drawing board.” The result is a scaled down version that would include seats for 1,000 students, she said. “We tried to come up with an idea that is both useful for the district and palatable for the community… Hopefully this time around, we get a different reaction.”

Grillo explained that the process for building a new school begins when the SCA proposes a potential site. The proposal goes to the community board, which votes on it within its role as an advisory body. “Their vote is just a recommendation, however it very often influences the way the City Council vote,” she said. “We want to be good neighbors… so we go back and see if we can come up with something that will really be accepted.”

However, she indicated that the SCA is committed to moving this proposal forward regardless of the outcome of the January CB 5 meeting. “At that point, if we get a good recommendation – or even if we don’t – we will take this to the City Council Land Use Committee,” she said.

A big consideration for local residents, many who say the area is saturated with schools, is whether it would be zoned only for local children. However, Grillo made it clear that “zoning is not a conversation the SCA has.” That decision will ultimately be made by the city Department of Education.

James McClelland, chief of staff for Councilman Anthony Como, noted that he was involved in the efforts to ensure that the new school being built on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills was zoned locally. “It’s going to be a long fight to get it locally zoned,” he said. “It took us a long time to get those words, ‘locally zoned.’”

Councilwoman Elect Elizabeth Crowley, who will represent the area starting in January, said she is meeting with officials in hopes of securing local zoning. “I think it should be for our community,” she said. “We haven’t had high school seats [in Maspeth] going back to when I went to high school… I would be afraid to send my kids to Grover Cleveland."

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