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Most residents who spoke at public hearing favor middle school proposal, but want existing building be incorporated into design

jbhearing

Oct. 18, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan

Residents gathered to voice concerns over the proposed new middle school in Sunnyside last night.

The Community District Education Council 30 held a public hearing last night on the proposed 600-seat school, which would be located at 38-04 48th Street, the site of the historic Sunnyside Community Garage.

While most residents were in favor of a new school to help combat overcrowding, many took issue with the proposed location, which was designed by famed architect Clarence Stein in the 1920s, who created Sunnyside Gardens.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer opened the meeting by explaining the necessity of the school, but also calling on the School Construction Authority to build a school that incorporates the history of the building, including possibly preserving part or all of the existing structure.

He added that he would like to see a school that is historically and architecturally consistent with the surrounding community.

Building today

Building today

“My record on this community, my familiarity with the community, and my love of it is unquestionable,” Van Bramer said. “I believe that building a new middle school is imperative for the future of our community. Now how we build it does matter.”

Van Bramer suggested creating a community advisory board to help guide the SCA throughout the design process.

Michael Mirisola, director of external affairs for the SCA, presented examples of other schools that he said the SCA built that blended in with a surrounding community, often preserving parts of the history of the site they were built on.

“We look forward to the challenge that the Council Member has put before us. In fact we don’t just look forward to it, we wholeheartedly accept everything that he has asked us to do,” Mirisola said. “I can fully commit to everything the Council Member asked us to do today.”

Mirisola made it clear that he was unsure whether the entire building would be saved, but promised the new school would stay true to the nature of the neighborhood.

He showed several slides of the dilapidated building today, featuring lots of graffiti and bearing little resemblance to old photographs of the original structure.

Sunnyside Community Garage

Sunnyside Community Garage

“I can guarantee you one thing, whatever happens in Sunnyside at that location, it will be more true to that original 1928 building than what we saw in the first slide,” Mirisola said.

He added that the SCA is in the public comments portion of the process, which will be open until November 4 and residents can send thoughts on the project to sites@nycsca.org until that time.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, many residents shared a single message: restore, don’t demolish, the standing building.

Sunnyside Gardens resident Herbert Reynolds brought photographs of the old building and spoke about the legacy of architect Clarence Stein.

“Stein’s building is an inseparable part of this planned community,” Reynolds said.

Most community members agreed that a school was necessary to the community, and many accepted the idea of a school at that site, provided the building was not destroyed.

However other speakers brought up issues of traffic and parking in the neighborhood, and questioned whether another location would be more appropriate, though Van Bramer said that it took many years to find this location, let alone another.

CDC 30 provided a list of four alternate locations that were considered.

One space considered was at 32-52 37th Street, the site of a Roman Catholic Church building. The SCA leased the building and it has been occupied by the Department of Education since last year, making it unavailable for the new school.

The second space considered was at 50-25 Barnett Avenue, which is owned by Phipps Houses and was planned for a highly controversial development of an affordable housing complex, though the plan has since been scrapped.

The third location considered was 39-34 43rd Street, which is the site of a 100,000 square foot warehouse building, which has since been fully leased and is not available to house a school.

The final location was at 69-01 34th Avenue, which is a lot that the SCA acquired in 2015 and plans are underway for a new primary school for the site.

Some community members spoke in strong favor of the school, including Deborah Alexander, the co-president of the Community Education Council.

“I am a strong believer that it is imperative that it be built,” Alexander said. She added that the SCA had been looking for a site for a new middle school for over 10 years, and this site was the best option.

“I may have been a little hasty to judge those who valued art and architecture over education,” Alexander said, but added that after hearing the discussion at the meeting, “I do think that we can have both.”

The Community Board 2 will be voting on the project site at their next meeting on November 3, where community members are invited to attend and share any thoughts on the proposed school site.

Residents providing comment

Residents providing comment last night

email the author: news@queenspost.com

53 Comments

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Doc

Herb- if thats true they need to change the requirements to be placed on the national registry of historic places

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Anonymous

Dorothy name one person who cares about that building,or someone who thinks its historic. Historic??? Are you kidding? You are kidding, right? Uh, honestly,you are kidding right?

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Anonymous

If most people who spoke favored it then most people didn’t speak. It was over way before I get home from work. That is one way to keep people out of the loop. Who can get to a meeting at 6pm?

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Dorothy Morehead

You can send your opinions to the DOE by mail or email until November 4. You can also come to the Community Board meeting on Thursday, November 3. and either speak or leave your message in writing.

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Paul

What about the area that was Sport’s Authority? Make the kids use the M/R on Northern and can be in and out of area

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Anonymous

that intersection is so incredibly dangerous. the light to cross northern and access the m/r is green for less than 30 seconds. it’s sad that everyone is so obessesed with the sports authority solution and that they’d rather risk the safety of the students than just dealing with 600 preteens.

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Change as the Status Quo

See, for most people, the collateral damage of having a few kids getting run over by a truck or increasing the budget or altering traffic patterns for an entire neighborhood is preferred over a school in a residential neighborhood. “I don’t want kids walking past my house. Too noisy, they are all criminals and misfits, and they aren’t even from my neighborhood. The area will become a slum in no time.

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Anonymous

There are schools on major roads all over this nation. Your fears are hysterical. Please get some perspective.

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Pat

You have to live across from a school to really know what happens with the traffic that ensues morning and afternoon. .. That area on 48th St will be a traffic nightmare for the children and the school crossing guards ..
Surely Jimmy V you can find a safer place for kids to go to school. You will be dealing with Middle school kids here and we all know they don’t always listen Especially when they have been holed up in school all day their energy bursts when let out and are not always careful. .

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Linda

Good to hear that most are supporting the school. It’s an investment in the future of the neighborhood.

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Harry

Please don’t build a building that looks like the gray, jail design of PS 361 where the meeting was held.

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Anne Marie

PS 361 color and design looks like a converted factory. You would never know that the City designed it. picked out the color bricks, and built it from the bottom up. Ugly eyesore!

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SALLY

CANCEL THE PRIMARY SCHOOL ON 34TH AVENUE AND 69TH STREET, WHICH THE SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY OWNS AND BUILD THE MIDDLE SCHOOL THERE! THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE THAT ALL ALONG. THAT AREA DOES NOT NEED ANOTHER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. DEBLASIO WASTING EVEN MORE MONEY.. ONE TERM MAYOR!

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Anonymous

It sounds like JVB is determined to put the screws to everyone in the neighborhood. Shame on you. Sports Authority.

And when did Mr. Reynolds hold a meeting of the preservation alliance to gather his neighbor’s thoughts on this? Or did he just “consult himself” as Donald Trump does because he believes his brain is superior to everyone elses? He operates on a pre-democratic basis as do the couple who started this mess. We are all equal as long as they are in charge.

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JOR

I would like to know if there’s an added cost to preserving the existing structure (if so, how much) versus a completely new rebuild consistent with the look and feel of the surrounding neighborhood (360 degree view). I’d hate to see additional dollars spent on preserving a building nobody has cared about for many years when every cent should be spent on the children’s education.

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Dietmar Detering

Exactly. While I am in favor of the school in that location I am surprised that the School Construction Authority is so enthusiastic about yielding to these totally new preservation demands. Clearly, preserving the old shell will make their already difficult job more difficult. And has really no one been asking how much extra that is going to cost, or how it is going to limit the new school’s ability to fulfill it’s actual mission of providing the best possible environment for learning? Taxpayers might wonder whether their dollars are being spent wisely…

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Anonymous

I’ve wanted it to be restored to its original purpose for at least a decade. And so have others. I had no idea there was any historical value just practical value. This neighborhood needed a garage way, way, way back before many people even had one car never mind the two cars most couples with kids drive. Education is invaluable, but there are more places available. Sports Authority for one!

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Anonymous

Sport Authority is not a walking distance for kids from PS150. There is no easy way to get there by public transportation either. This new school is promoted as being zoned school for local kids so they don’t have to take subway when they are 10,11 and 12 years old.

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Anonymous

The Northern Blvd. bus goes right by. Take the 48th St. bus to Northern then switch or just walk from 48th. Its two or three blocks.

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Barnett location doesn't work....

What about the kids from PS 152??

The Barnett location is even further from PS 152 than the distance from Sports Authority to PS 150

This Barnett location just doesnt work.

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Lives Close Enough To Have An Opinion

Sports Authority location is not zoned for schools. It’s a danger zone for 6-800 middle schoolers waiting to get hit by a car or truck. Also, too much commercial traffic (trucks, etc), and that traffic will get locked by school busses twice a day. Not gonna happen.

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Anonymous

Change the zoning. Put the entrance on the side street so the children can approach from 37th Avenue, as the buses can. It can happen.

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Lives Close Enough To Have An Opinion

Placing the entrance on the side has other consequences. How much double parking do you think will happen there and on N. Boulevard impeding commercial traffic? What about school buses stopping ? I think the speed limit for the boulevard is 30 mph. You are going to have to slow it down to 15 during school start and finish. Then there is the safety issue of vehicular deaths on both Qns Blvd and N.Blvd. There is a reason for why it’s not zoned for schools – for precisely the reasons I stated. .

Linda

I agree. I think the concern about historic preservation is a front for a general sentiment by some against all new development in the area. This is the first time we’ve ever heard about the historic nature of this building. These are public dollars and need to be spent wisely.

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Lives Close Enough To Have An Opinion

Fine. Then lets not complain when a cheaply built, ugly, and inappropriate structure goes up because it saves money. This is why we have so many ugly pieces of crap littering our skyline. How many just love the residential apt buildings going up in LIC or QnsBoro Plaza? Developers want cheap, and so will the city.

At some point, visual appeal and it’s integration into the environment has value. For those that don’t care, the value is closer to zero. Unfortunately, I have a feeling the NYC School Construction Authority feels the same. Also, nobody knows if it can be re-purposed. The column grid might not be suited to classrooms. and they might not be able to come up with more money to renovate and refurbish the existing structure. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing the facade kept, while the rest of the building is razed.

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Dorothy Morehead

Many people have cared about the building, which should have been included in the historic district because it was an integral part of the planning of Sunnyside Gardens. It has been privately owned and there was never the opportunity to voice an opinion on its use.

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Anonymous

Parking garage. The city has been slicing parking spots off the corners, and jamming more and more people into the same places for a long time now. Some people need a car there is no getting around it. They need a place to put it. Make provisions. A smart businessman could find a way to profit off it. Get one.

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Anonymous

Greedy civil servants and sycophantic CB types let them cut the community garage and all lots on the northern side of Barnett out. It is coming back to bite their inheritors now. Call Chris Quinn I’m sure she would be happy to help us out.

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Sunnyman

That’s right…all these people who are in favor don’t care about the everyday impact on people’s lives this will have.

I’m pro-school but in ANOTHER LOCATION.

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Lives Close Enough To Have An Opinion

I know, right? It’s like everybody thinks (appropriate) real estate is so easily come by. Nah, not here. Make it. . . over there.

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Anonymous

There are many one-story properties on 37th Avenue that look much easier to knock down than the community garage. Go make them an offer they can’t refuse or use eminent domain. Or, get the negotiator, Donald Trump, to make a deal for you. He’s going to have plenty of time on his hands next month and will need to rehab his “deplorable” reputation.

Anonymous

There is an empty lot on 43rd St. and one on 44th between Skillman and 43rd Avenues. Make them an offer they can’t refuse. There are small strips of stores on 43rd Avenue that could make way for a school with some retail at street level. Make the owner of the lots on Skillman below 51st put two or three floors of classrooms between his retail and luxury condos. You real estate pirannahs have destroyed the integrity of so many blocks go after one that is already ruined.

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Terrible

This is terrible. Let’s have teenagers who don’t live in the area run through and tear it up every day. Anybody that says it won’t happen isn’t being realistic.

There is a reason there hasnt been a school in the neighborhood for 100 years…because it doent make sense. Build this in a better location.

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Resident

Yes. I also don’t want a prison, waste transfer station, sewage plant, garbage dump, firing range, or homeless shelter. Any other stupid questions?

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JustPaula

If you consider sewage plants and firing ranges in the same category as a middle school, serving to educate the children living in the community, then there is really no reasoning with you. Geez. Would you prefer an Assisted Living facility? Those places are open 24/7/365 and sound like the perfect solution for a location that so many commenters seem to think should be put back to how it was ten decades ago.

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Resident

Paula, they are in the same category as far as “things I don’t want next to my home”. I can’t stop development but I don’t have to support it either.

Anonymous

And I don’t want anything that draws lots of traffic night and day. In the past decade or more a little corner that held a pharmacy, beauty parlor, barbershop and cobbler was turned into a restaurant. It advertises all over western Queens. Now this place that quietly served people within walking distance has delivery trucks all day, patrons with cars dropping off people and double parking then taking residents parking spots and waiters and management jockeying all over until they get all the parking in sight of the place. Worst are delivery cars half-parked in the crosswalk all through the dinner rush making U-turns through the T-shaped intersection. This is on a block with other delivery trucks, lots of foot traffic, an emergency vehicle route, service vans for a major apartment house across the street, and parents and kids coming and going from a local park.

Businesses and community service institutions, such as a school or church, need to respect the lives of their residential neighbors. We are not here to make money or serve the public, this is where we come to sleep, rest and enjoy whatever leisure is afforded in a hard-working life. Business and institutions need to conduct themselves with this uppermost in their minds. Otherwise they cause friction and anger that doesn’t subside.

Terrible

Yeah, that’s righ- not in my backyard.

Easy for people to push for a building/school when they don’t live in direct proximity to the contemplated location.

This will have broad reaching impacts on Sunnyside. Many of us been living here for years and there has never been a school. I am not one of the people on this site that is against all changes in Sunnyside- far from it in fact. I am in favor of advancing the neighborhood from a social perspective with new restaurants, bars, cafes, but a school has never been here and I firmly believe that none of the people pushing for this location are thinking about the unattended consequences on putting a school in this exact location.

Find another nearby location that can be used.

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Dorothy Morehead

We were told that this would be a school for student from PS 150, PS 11 and PS 361 and that the expected number of students would be 600.

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