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Editorial: NIMBYs vs. schools

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It's not a toxic dump or a jail that has them up in arms. It's a school. To say this boggles the mind would be an understatement. School District 25 is woefully overcrowded and in desperate need of more classroom space. The 700 seats planned for the Queens College school will not solve the overcrowding. But they will help.

They say their primary concern is the impact the proposed school will have on traffic. Neighbors say that each morning as many as 50 buses and 100 cars will bring children to the school and return for them each afternoon. This, of course, is true for any school. In every case, the people living across from the school experience a degree of inconvenience. Parents inevitably will double park, making roads barely passable. Children can be counted on to be loud on their way to and from school.

Yes, living close to a school can be an inconvenience. But this pales in contrast to teaching children in trailers, hallways or bathrooms.

Some have questioned the reason for putting so many children on the college campus. Can't the kids be taught somewhere else? The proposed school would serve as a laboratory for students who plan to go into teaching. And, of course, new teachers are urgently needed. Teacher salaries in the city have failed to keep pace with those of teachers in the surrounding suburbs. Any program that encourages bright young people to pursue teaching as a profession deserves everyone's support.

Putting the new school on the Queens College campus makes sense. Those who oppose the school need to see the bigger picture.

It's over, Frank

The season is over and the Kings have left Queens forever. But State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) is not ready to abandon his fight against the baseball stadium at St. John's University.

Last winter the senator joined Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Bayside), Jamaica Estates and other nearby communities in asking the courts to block the city's plan to build a 3,500-seat stadium that for one season would be home to a Mets minor league Class A team. At that time they were sure that the sky was about to fall. The crowds that would pack this stadium would bring noise, pollution and traffic congestion. The lights from the stadium would keep people awake as they tried to sleep in their beds.

The sky didn't fall. The crowds never became unbearable. In fact, they averaged only about 1,000 fans a game. And now that the Kings are gone, the stadium will be used by St. John's teams and the community. Even Padavan admits the fans "stayed away in droves." But he isn't ready to give up his legal fight.

We are bewildered. What does the senator hope to gain? No court is going to force St. John's to tear down a stadium built on its own property that will now serve St. John's teams. St. John's and the Economic Development Corporation, which funded the building of the stadium, have been vindicated. They promised that the stadium would not have a negative impact on quality of life. And, indeed, it did not.

Dragging this issue out in the courts will benefit no one - except for the attorneys. The senator should move on to more important matters.

New hope for seniors

Once again the ubiquitous Allen AME Church has demonstrated what can be accomplished in this city through creative public-private partnerships. The Allen AME Housing Corp., a nonprofit organization connected to the church, won community board approval last week to build badly needed senior citizen housing in South Jamaica.

The corporation has proposed the building of three seven-story residences on property currently owned by the city. To make this dream a reality, the site will have to be rezoned from commercial to residential use. The people at Allen AME know just how desperately such housing is needed. There is already a long waiting list for people wanting to get into existing senior housing built by Allen AME. Those on the list will get first shot at the new housing.

What strikes us about the Allen AME and its pastor, the Rev. Floyd Flake, is the ability of this church to cut through the red tape, get past the bull and get the job done. For that reason, we have no doubt that his housing plan will be thwarted by environmentalists who warn that the soil is contaminated and the air is polluted by the bus terminal across the street.

Where in southeast Queens is the soil not contaminated? And if the buses are polluting the air, it is the bus depot that must make changes. The senior housing is far too important to be blocked by such concerns.

We hope that other nonprofit organizations will study the example set by Allen AME. There is a critical shortage of senior housing, both nursing homes and assisted living. As a society we cannot count ourselves a success unless we can provide opportunities for our seniors to live out their lives in dignity and comfort. Rev. Flake and his team have shown how the job gets done. Others must merely follow their example.

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