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Barnett Avenue Middle School Design Revealed, Construction to Start in 2020

A rendering of the upcoming middle school as seen from Barnett Avenue and 48th Street (SCA)

Jan. 5, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

Designs for Sunnyside’s newest middle school have at last been revealed, with construction expected to start next year on a project long in the works and which saw some controversy along the way.

The School Construction Authority, the city agency that builds schools, presented plans for the upcoming building at 38-04 48th St. during Thursday’s Community Board 2 meeting, noting that while parts of the school are still being worked on, the overwhelmingly majority of the design is complete.

The middle school will rise to five stories and seat 720 students from grades five to eight in a building spanning more than 76,000 square feet.

The school will have typical fixtures including a cafeteria, a “gymnatorium” and some outdoor play space along 48th Street, with its design coming after months of talks with community stakeholders, many of whom raised concerns over demolishing the existing building at the site to make way for the project.

The vacant two-story building at the lot today, once home to several businesses, was built in 1927 and is historically known as the Sunnyside Community Garage.

The building is listed with the State Historic Preservation Office, but has changed significantly over the decades and bears practically no resemblance to the original garage, whose architect, Clarence Stein, was the mastermind behind Sunnyside Gardens. The building, moreover, is not included in the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District.

Still, many in the community sought to have the building preserved and restored if it were to become a school, and strongly objected to the SCA’s plans to demolish the building.

But the SCA has maintained that the building has to be demolished given its condition and other issues that made saving it unfeasible.

“We looked at that seriously and we found that that was just not possible,” said Michael Mirisola, SCA director of external affairs, adding, “Saving the building would not satisfy the needs that a school would require.”

The state historic preservation office agreed with the SCA’s determination, but mandated that the new building’s design include elements of the original building in its brick coloring, facade fixtures and other areas.

The school’s design would additionally be worked out with input from a community advisory group, which met with the SCA four times since May.

As a result, the new middle school building’s design calls for a lower half with features that harken back to the original structure, with an upper portion reflecting a more contemporary look.

The first two stories, for example, will incorporate a dark-colored brick and design resembling what was on the building in its prime, with the remaining upper floors to use brick of a lighter color.

Details of the upcoming school building shown at the Community Board 2 meeting on Jan. 3. (via YouTube)

The windows at the bottom two floors will also replicate features of the old building, with metal paneling to hold the window panes.

While the building will go to five stories at most, it will have varying levels, with the bulk of the building to go toward Barnett Avenue—away from the low-rise homes at 39th Avenue.

To further separate the low-rise homes from the school, the existing wall between the two will be kept up, with a new wall to be built directly behind it and “tied” to the old wall for reinforcement.

Another element to the school building is a small tower on 48th Street, built to resemble the structure that was once part of the old garage before it was destroyed in a fire decades ago.

The tower will act as a outdoor storage room for the school’s maintenance staff.

“We typically don’t do this in a school because this is expensive to do,” said John Dias, an architect with the SCA, on the level of historic detail being incorporated into the building. “But we want to try to match the existing building as close as possible.”

Figuring out a design that worked with the building’s history and blends with the neighborhood, the SCA said, added a year to the project timeline, and comes more than two years after plans for the school were first announced.

Work on bringing about the new school is expected to begin some time in the middle of next year. Work on the south wall will be done first before the rest of the building is demolished, and is anticipated to start in the spring of 2020. Demolition and construction will then likely take place in the summer of that year.

The school building is anticipated to open in 2022.

The two-story building on 38-04 48th St. set to be demolished for a new middle school. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

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53 Comments

Patricia Dorfman

Queens Streets for All, concerned with removing the DOT 43rd and Skillman Avenues “Road Diet,” did not make the comment published in this thread.

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No conspiracy, just democracy with warts and all

New Yorkers have overcrowded trains, schools and hospitals. Bankers & developers make lots of money from residential. So… who is really responsible for the infrastructure of a city?
My answer is it’s citizens.

This middle school project was advocated by its citizens, neighbors, parents, and the elected politicians who actually listened and did something. Queens Post, NY1,ABC News and Woodside Herald reported on these advocacy efforts. We went through hoops to prove that children actually live here and that neighbors wanted a school. We didn’t twist any arms to sign petitions or pay anyone off.

Career boost? Please…

It’s a small school that barely fits on its site. Yes it’s not ideal. Yes, some students will continue to go out of neighborhood to IS125q, charter schools and elsewhere.

Good news, it’s a modest size school that can not grow any bigger; unless DOE bought all 10 homes or an apartment building next door. It has potential to be an amazing community school to serve its community.

As for other locations, who can truly transfer DOT land out of DOT control to DOE? This Mayor couldn’t.

This location was available when the process was started, not Sports Authority site. To find a willing seller to sell to DOE below market prices and endure full facilities review prior to purchase is not easy to find.

Lastly, the land was protected by State Historic Preservation Office in Albany who required the SCA to honor the old Stein building in the new design. In 2007 when the successful parts of our landmark was designated this property was not included. City Authority sold the parking garage in the 1930s when this agency could no longer maintain it.

Good democracy is upheld by vocal citizens, active elected officials, everyone listening, providing solutions, and compromising.

To Kristen, I am truly happy that this school will help your youngest.

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*****

The parking lot was left out of the landmark district for craven reasons. The community obviously needs more parking. Many people walk, but many, many families moving in have two and three vehicles and they are huge. That small parcel of land, almost too small for a school by your own admission, up against the tracks on a narrow little avenue and a through street should not have a building on it that necessitates the use of scores of cars and many buses. The immediate roads can’t handle it. It will make an already bad situation much worse. Especially for the people living a block or two near it. St. Sebastian’s had a study done years ago proving that the constant 7 train traffic significantly lowered the attention spans of students in classrooms adjacent to it, whether the students and teachers were aware of it or not. Why put a brand new school on top of the busiest commuter railroad in the nation? Why? Because you are desperate? The neighborhood did without a middle school for about 90 years. You couldn’t wait until a really good spot came up? It was clear to anyone watching that the woman who passionately spearheaded this—and the business of a community organization she was involved with—was sublimating some professional frustration. It happens to a lot of people but they usually work on much smaller projects. This will negatively impact the lives of those in the immediate area for decades. Especially those who cherish the neighborhood for its peace and quiet. Seniors, for instance, who lived through the child-rearing years already and don’t want to live vicariously through the chaos all over again. It is one thing to choose to live near a school, but when you have chosen to live far from one and then you have one thrust upon you it is a different matter. Other people’s children are a liability. We wish you parents all the good health, good fortune and good everything in the job you have chosen, but why criticize those who chose not to, couldn’t or have already raised their children for not wanting to be a part of your experience every day? It is a critical phase of life, of course, but other people are having different experiences that are just as legitimate and important. This school degrades the quality of life for them by adding lots of traffic and noise. But, hey, you got what you wanted. You won. Bully for you.

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Bring on the gentrification

“Parking placard abuse among teachers,”-
The DOE no longer offers parking passes for teachers.

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LIC Direct

Wait until you have rowdy teenagers running amok through the gardens, hanging out in the new park on Skillman and 51st, smoking weed through-out, tagging every wall with graffiti and gang markings, Yo this and Yo that, Que Pasa ESE, Orale Carnal, it will be a sh*t-show. Thank your beloved council-man Jimmy Van Bramer for bringing some of the reality and insanity to the quality of your lives that many of us on the South Side of Queens Blvd have had to deal with on a daily basis with Queens Vocational, homeless shelters and the prison to shelter program. Next logical step for the gardens would be a prison on the site Steve Madden once Rikers is shut down with a homeless shelter thrown in for good measure in their parking lot. You will see homes on the selling block in the gardens in droves. They are gearing up for the next new groundbreaking in the spring the Sunny Side Yards project. A station platform already being installed in Sunnyside/exchange.

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Shame on the Ignorant, Insensitive Young and Middle Aged Adults

JVB and the McGowans will forever wear virtual tar and feathers for this debacle. They sold their neighbors out to advance their own careers. Prying out seniors by making it incredibly unpleasant to continue living in the constantly degrading environment—and forcing the elderly to give up their cars—is vile ageism.

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Intervention

Hold on right there, take a breath and give us, your neighbors, the courtesy of a minute to step outside of your immediate experience. You and your friends may have grown old in recent years, but the neighborhood and the city have just not grown proportionately with you and your cohort. We, as in the 9:1 majority of the age distribution, still need schools among a number of other completely normal facets of city life in 21st century NYC. Crying ageism at the same time as asking for preference over others based on your age (ie ageism) should not occur before self reflection.

I say this with all due respect for the generation that kept this neighborhood up in a time when Queens (and NYC) were going down, but this is plainly not “yours” in the selfish way you think it is. Learn to share.

And lastly, to those irksome curmudgeons below, for the last time: this is not a small town!!!

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ann

Is this a press release from the School Construction Authority? ‘Some controversy’???? People were up in arms. All the Landmark regulations are pushed aside when it involves a school, so a 5 story building, at a very unsuitable location. Everyone else here can’t change a window without a permit. Also there is no regard for the community at all, nor for the teachers and students who will be in a school without convenient transportation. (Don’t say walking blocks and blocks from the subway is convenient.)

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Anonymous

Absolutely. The number of students graduating from the elementary schools PS 11 is 150 students, PS 150 is 150 students, and PS 361 is 100 students . That is an entering class of 400 students each year. 400 x 3 = 1200 students in a school built for 700. Sports Authority should have been the location. Nobody would have had to cross Northern Blvd since the zone is on the south side of Northern Blvd and the entrance could have been on 54 Street with a large enough school and playground. And all these experts for the City can not do the math of 400 x 3 = 1200. So, we are back to the same problem after all the millions of dollars. Where are the balance of students going to go, back to IS 125 where we started? Now, the city is looking at the Sports Authority site for a High School. Should be an IS/HS Grades 6-12 school, because the neighborhood is going to need additional middle school space for part of P.S. 11 and 361 graduates. This building is too small. The full Sports Authority site for the middle school would have been perfect when it was available, instead of this site.

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nobody

This looks fantastic. Preserves the integrity and style of the original building and fits perfectly into the character of the neighborhood.

But here come the NIMBYs whining about not wanting to live near a school, which…honestly, if you can’t handle living by a school, leave NYC forever and move to a field in Kansas.

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Wake Up

Do you understand the phenomenon you are foolishly fronting for? Gentrification is the modern, political/business version of colonization. You probably rant against it elsewhere yet you insult the people who surround you who are suffering from it right in front of your eyes. You call them backward, old, anti-progressives, etc. when they are on their knees begging to be let to live. You have a serious schism in your brain and don’t realize you are a tool of much larger forces than you want to admit.

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nobody

Ah yes, gentrifying forces like *checks notes* building a public school next to the highest value, landmarked, most pearl-clutched real estate in Sunnyside.

Galaxy brain stuff.

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urbo

i’m sorry, is this school being built through eminent domain and are families being displaced? BEGGING TO LIVE? what kind of bs drama are you living in?

since you hate kids so much why don’t we just pave over sunnyside gardens park and make it a parking lot, then will all of you shut up?

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LongerLifer

your response is foolish on too many levels to enumerate. Communication is impossible.

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Shame On You

To green, callow, over-egoed newcomers, you are the quinticential “ugly Americans” who barge in and never realize all they destroyed. Hard to hear, but true.

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urbo

I’ve lived here my whole life so I guess you’re referring to someone else.

Maybe if you had a good school within reach you’d know how to spell…

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Anonymous

I am glad that if you neglect historical buildings, developers can do what ever they want with them. Thanks JVB!

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urbo

this narrative never made sense and it never will. please stop pretending to care about a structure you never cared about.

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Wake Up

The facts are plain to see whether you like the narrative or not. And your presumption that people don’t care about this is hubris at its most blatant. Check your ego.

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urbo

my ego is fine, thanks. it’s pretty simple — if someone cared, something would have been done about it long before the school idea even came up. the original details would have been preserved, someone could have fought to landmark it the way they fought to landmark the paper thin overpriced houses that surround it. the pool hall was always a bad fit, and i have personally witnessed about 3 car accidents because of its makeshift parking lot. the gym was closed for years and it was obvious that building had no future for over a decade. the school comes up and everyone is suddenly up in arms about drugs, delinquents and trash.

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Learning to Ignore the Inexperienced

As always, age and experience are limitations. You simply are not ready to understand. And because you think you know it all already you tell those with more experience they are deficient in facts. It is not worth trying to enlighten those who do not have the tools to perceive. These changes are making it very difficult for people who are least able to “ramp up.” But go ahead, feel entitled and superior. Take what you want because you can. If you live long enough you may come to understand and eventually feel shame and regret.

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LongerLifer

It looks simple because you don’t see anywhere near the whole picture.

urbo

I understand this much — you assume everyone younger than you knows nothing. That’s fairly typical, but what frightens me about this kind of outlook is that you seem to have forgotten that you were once young yourself and that there’s something to be learned from everyone, no matter how old. The amount of assumptions and disgusting stereotypes that have gone into this discussion from day one really are embarrassing and have no place in a community as diverse as ours. You have your experience, you deserve respect, but so does everyone else. It’s completely unfair to dismiss a portion of a generation and their right to an education because you’ve decided in advance that it’ll definitely inconvenience you.

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*****

Look back on your life and see if you think you knew more at 20 than you did at 10, at 30 than at 20, and on and on. Could your 20 year old self have given good sound advice to your 30 year old self? Maybe on a few things, but as you age you have gone through many things your 20 year old self could not have imagined. Well, that phenomenon keeps happening. When younger people speak to me I have some ability to place their experience in perspective because I was once 20. It doesn’t work in the other direction. When an older person speaks from their point in life younger people have no ability to put their experience in perspective and offer any valuable advice. It is as maddening to have a 30 or 40 year old tell me what I need or what I should be doing (like getting on a bike) as it would be for a 20 year old to take advice from a 10 year old. You know they are earnest and mean well, and maybe they speak with passion, but they lack experience and perspective. They may not be exactly wrong, but their vantage point is limited by time.

Holds No Bar

SCA is right to want to demo the old structure. To sustain elements of a building built in 1927 for a new school is putting future children at risk. Foundations walls and footings and brick and mortar exteriors this old are VERY pourous and hard to maintain, and the likelihood of water seepage / penetration and ensuing mold issues is high. Mold can cause asthma in young children, and asthma kills over 6,000 people each year here in the US alone. Most of them are children and elderly.

It might take 3-5 decades for such a repurposed landmark to pose a threat, but IMO all schools new or rebuilt should be built with the newest and safest materials – like hospitals.

Sure, if you were to keep only the brick facade (face / skin) and layer that on top of a new building and not try to reuse the foundation, then maybe. But please, the building’s aesthetic in its current condition is nothing to celebrate.

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Patrick

Turn it into a Trader Joe’s. The last thing these kids need is a shyt NYC education.

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Optics

Comments about potsmoking kids and teachers taking up parking spots in three… two… one.

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Kristin

I’m thankful for the constructive (no pun intended!) work of those on the community advisory committee. By pushing to keep the building in scale and style with Sunnyside as well as include modern ADA compliant facilities with features like an art suite (2 rooms and a kiln), music rooms, science labs, library and a gym, we will hopefully add a wonderful school to a spot that has been empty for too long. I have been touring middle schools this year for one of my children and see the best of the features we liked at Hunters Point and Wagner being built closer to home. It’ll be too late for this child, but I’m happy that it will be built in time for my younger child and the rest of our children.

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Guest

Stop wasting money on these designs trying to make it look like old building. Make it modern and maximize the usable space.

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“Alligator” E. Scalator

Folks on the corner at 39th Ave. And 48th Street, might want to sell before property values dive. The traffic congestion in the mornings and afternoons will be unbearable.

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urbo

yep, from all of those pesky 12 year olds and their drugs and their trash behind the wheel!

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Guest

“I’ll buy the houses for 500k. Send me the addresses. Kids are bad, horrible, you all should sell and move away. Sell me your places. ”

Don’t be fooled, people. Prices are not diving anywhere. Wait until they build a massive plaza on toysrus/liquidators. Possibly your beloved whole foods or whatever it is you want. Coming soon. No, not barnes and nobles, though.

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concerned parker

It will be a wonderful addition to Sunnyside but they need to do something about the parking, teachers and staff will need to have a parking lot. Also because 48th st is such a busy street they need to figure out a safe way for parents to do pick up. Pick up is always an issue on skillman because of all the double parked cars and it is not SAFE!

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urbo

the lot on barnett is seldom full, maybe they can arrange a special teacher rate with the DOE. thank you for being one of the only people that’s both concerned and reasonable.

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Park near Northern Blvd.

I think they should use the parking lot where Toys’R Us and NWL were. It’s never full. Reserve a section of it for school staff during school days from 7am to 4pm. The teachers can drive in and out from Northern Blvd, walk a little and shop. Win/Win/Win.

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Patret

The idea for this middle school was to provide an intermediate District 30 education for neighborhood students so they wouldn’t have to continue going out of district. So, if they are local students, why would they need pick up? The parents of the local students should be prepared to see many more than 720 children. Your little “neighborhood” school will be available to other D30 students in overcrowded middle schools.

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Anonymous

Absolutely. The number of students graduating from the elementary schools PS 11 is 150 students, PS 150 is 150 students, and PS 361 is 100 students . That is an entering class of 400 students each year. 400 x 3 = 1200 students in a school built for 700. Sports Authority should have been the location. Nobody would have had to cross Northern Blvd since the zone is on the south side of Northern Blvd and the entrance could have been on 54 Street with a large enough school and playground. And all these experts for the City can not do the math of 400 x 3 = 1200. So, we are back to the same problem after all the millions of dollars. Where are the balance of students going to go, back to IS 125 where we started?

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