Nov. 21, 2017 By Nathaly Pesantez
Plans for a new middle school in Sunnyside are inching closer to reality as the City Council’s subcommittee on Landmarks and Public Siting unanimously approved the site selection for a nearly-700 seat public school right by Sunnyside’s historic district.
The school, proposed for 38-04 48th St., flush along 48th Street and Barnett Avenue, would seat approximately 697 students at the site of the Sunnyside Community Garage, a two-story structure built around 1927. The building, within a lot area of 25,000 square-feet, has been vacant for the past four years after hosting a string of businesses, including a billiards hall.
The school’s design is still under progress, Michael Mirisola, director of external affairs for the School Construction Authority, said before five members of the subcommittee at a hearing on Nov. 20. But the final design would see a school building of about four to five stories for students in grades 6 to 8.
Standard school features, like a lunchroom, a kitchen, a “gymnatorium”, and rooms for science, music, and art, will be worked into the forthcoming school’s design. Mirisola, along with Kathy Murphy, director of real estate services for the SCA, said they are also working hard to include a ground level playground at the site.
Preservation concerns were raised by Mirisola and Murphy at the hearing, prompted by their discussions with Community Board 2 residents last year who asked about implementing some of the Sunnyside Community Garage’s original features, which included a tower, brick work, and extensive decorations, into the new school. “We will try and work to bring some of those details back in the proposed school,” Mirisola said.
The existing building bears little to no resemblance to the original garage, and is plagued with structural issues which call for the site to be torn down completely to make the new school, Mirisola said. “We provided all that information to the state historic office when we were working with them to try to see if we can re-use the site,” Murphy said. “We weren’t able to.”
Mirisola added that the SCA will be working in conjunction with Community Board 2, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, and a specially-designed community group through every step of the way.
The proposed public school, on a site which the SCA would have to acquire, as it is currently on the privately owned, will now have to face the full Land Use Committee and a vote by the city council.
News of the SCA scoping the site for an intermediate school first came about in the fall of 2016. Since then, the SCA held several meetings with the community, which resulted in CB2 overwhelmingly voting for the school to come to the historic district in the winter of 2016.
The school, which still needs to receive its required approvals from the city and undergo a bidding and final design process, could open in 2021 if everything is on schedule, Mirisola said last year.