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City Files Initial Plans to Demolish Barnett Avenue Building, Makes Way for 700-Seat Middle School

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

Sept. 7, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

A long-abandoned building on Barnett Avenue could soon be facing the wrecking ball as the city moves forward with its plans to build a middle school on the property.

The city filed plans with the Department of Buildings yesterday to demolish the two-story building at 38-04 48th St., where the School Construction Authority will be building a 697-seat middle school.

The filing, in addition, outline plans to preserve the south wall of the building, which would separate the school from the residential homes behind it.

While the City has yet to file building plans for the new school, the SCA has announced that it plans to construct a four to five story building for students in grades six to eight, with standard school features like a lunch room, “gymnatorium”, and rooms for science, music, and art. A ground-level playground will also be part of the school site.

The filing to demolish the existing structure signals another step forward in the middle school saga, as several in the community have called to preserve it, given its history as Clarence Stein’s Sunnyside Community Garage.

Sunnyside Community Garage in its prime.

Others, however, say the building has long lost its historical markers, and that moving forward with a newly built and desperately needed middle school makes more sense.

The issue was debated by members of a community advisory group, established specifically to review the project. The group, made up of about 30 residents and preservationists who were appointed by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, have met twice since spring to give input to city officials on the project.

The group includes people like Debra McGowan, co-founder of the Sunnyside Woodside Middle School Project and a prominent advocate for the school, Denise Keehan-Smith, community board 2 chairperson, and Herbert Reynolds, president of the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance, which heavily advocated for the building’s preservation.

In the advisory group meetings, the SGPA noted that it does not oppose a school at the site, and repeatedly called for the building to be restored and re-used, according to McGowan.

Reynolds did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a May online post, however, the SGPA wrote that the building, listed on the State and National Register of Historic places, is a “signature design by the chief architect of Sunnyside Gardens.”

“A new school can remedy the neglect this award-winning building has suffered in recent decades, and a restoration of the facades is the practical solution to make everyone happiest,” the group wrote.

But McGowan told the Sunnyside Post that the group was not persuasive enough in their stance during the meetings, and that the School Construction Authority had explained that preserving the building’s outer walls was not feasible for a variety of reasons based on analyses on the site.

The parameters of the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District. The middle school site is down in blue, outside the district. (NYC Landmarks)

“They’ve already gone through the state historical preservation office and have permission to tear down the building,” McGowan said.

The SCA, according to McGowan, said preserving the building’s walls would require added reinforcement, which would be costly and would take up more space on the lot. Additionally, to preserve the outer wall would require realignment work with new brick, which the agency does not feel it can properly match.

Above all, the SCA said its goal is to build a top notch school, and that the old walls would hinder its vision for a high quality building. The new school, the agency said, can incorporate elements of the original building in the design.

McGowan said she, like others in the committee, paid close attention to the viewpoints put forward by the SCA and preservationists, but believed the old building could not be saved if a quality school were to be built.

“It’s a charming brick building designed by a talented architect that is no longer in use as intended,” she said. “It needs so much care to make it stand up.”

She added that the building, while recognized by the government for its history, isn’t even part of the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District.

The school is still in the design phase, but an SCA rendering shows the bulk of the building will be on Barnett Avenue, with the playground on 48th Street.

It is unclear when construction will begin, although the SCA has told the advisory group that the school could open for September 2022.

SCA rendering of showing a proposed design for the middle school (Barnett Avenue Middle School Advisory Group/SCA)

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29 Comments

Elmer fudd

yeah those pampered gentrifying brats don’t need no education, they need to go out and get a job. It’s all the years of hard work by older white americans like us that made this country what it is today. All those young freeloaders should thank us by letting us park our cars anywhere we damn well want.

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Old as Dirt

I can understand why schools are needed since they build co-ops/apartment buildings in every available space its called OVERDEVELOPMENT & ruining the neighborhood..been down by Queens Plaza lately? ..barely room to walk never mind driving

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Anonymous

REBNY! DOT! And now DOE! We do not want schools in our neighborhood! We need parking!

Why isn’t Mayor De Blasio listening to the community? We need to save Sunnyside! We are everyone in the neighborhood and we are united against this project.

Stay tuned on details for next rally and sign up for instant updates on our website.

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Redsox17

Great even less parking now. this neighborhood just keeps getting worse I’m seriously contemplating moving to Long Island.

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Gardens Watcher

Don’t people know that schools and kids are the worst thing that could ever happen to a neighborhood or community. Why not a good old-fashioned pool hall or a wholesome bar?

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Gardens Watcher

Hey Imposter Gardens Watcher…
I’m baaack from vacation and can’t believe you have nothing better to do than to make up fake responses on my name AND a bunch of others. Betcha you are just one person and have NO life!

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Ed U. Cation

Let’s stop trying to build facilities we need. How about sending your offspring to the School of Hard Knocks?!! You want a public education? Step outside!

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Sosad

They left it out of the district, McGowan, because this was their plan all along. They preserved the buildings of the gardens, but the peace and integrity were never part of their plan. Duh.

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Heartbroken Native

Thank the McGowans. The fact that an architecht took part in the destruction of a historical building adds another degree of affront to what is a full-frontal assault on this neighborhood. The peace we long enjoyed as a neglected corner of Queens is obliterated. Welcome noise, bustle, commerce, etc. It is just another busy place now, not the tranquil haven it was designed to be and was for 80 years.

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urbo

holy crap, as a native do you not remember what a dump the gardens were as recently as twenty years ago? i genuinely have no recollection what was there before paradise but that stinky smokey pool hall brought lots of car accidents and late night noise with it. so how does getting rid of whats now an eyesore and putting up a middle school equal commerce?

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Corrupt DeBlasio's Homeless Hotel

What a terrible location to put a school. Once again city planners not knowing what proper city planning is. Get ready for an influx of traffic and noise in what was once a nice quiet neighborhood. Where is VanB in all of this?

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Tommy O

Where have you been? There have been numerous public meetings and discussions concerning this issue and JVB was at them. Where were you blowhard?

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Anonymous

Mr. JVB is all for this from the start don’t kid yourself he could care less about the neighborhood anymore.

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Ed

People don’t seem to realize the negative effect this school will have on the neighborhood. Traffic and garbage will be a major issue. And these kids will be wandering EVERYWHERE. The precious lawns and gardens in front of the houses are going to take a beating. I kind of like that, actually.

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crackerjack

Agreed, we should definitely try to remove families, and especially children, from living in this neighborhood. They wanna live here, fine, but educate them? No way! Seriously- this school is needed, very, very badly. Traffic will probably be a little heavier when school opens and closes, but let’s be honest you could change your route if it affects you that much. Education is more important. And as far as garbage- I don’t see it. The streets surrounding the schools I walk past are no worse than anywhere else.

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Withheld

But the majority won’t be children from Sunnyside, but children from overcrowded schools in Elmhurst, Corona and Ravenswood, Queensboro houses invading your tranquil neighborhood, Monday through Friday.

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urbo

I guess you don’t know how school districts work. PS 343 was pretty much zoned for children living within one single block of it in either direction.

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