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Low turnout at hearing for Creedmoor schools

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Most of the nine people who attended the meeting at the Bayside high school Nov. 22 were angered that the communities affected by the new schools were not better informed about the meeting. They also contended the 3:30 p.m. meeting time in a neighborhood removed from the affected communities was a ploy by the SCA to minimize public input on the project.

"The SCA and people involved with the school construction project must realize the public needs to be better involved and can't be excluded from these hearings," said Bernice Siegal, a Democratic candidate for City Council in northeast Queens, who was representing the Presidents Council of District 26 PTAs. "Many believe that the hearing was placed at Cardozo to prevent public response."

She said the community has been asking for public hearings in the affected communities since the project to build the schools on the Creedmoor campus began late last year. Siegal said the community wants to be notified of the meetings and the SCA needs to reach out to and take advantage of the PTAs, local officials, civic and community organizations.

The city Board of Education plans to build three schools, an outdoor playground and 250 parking places on 19.3 acres of a 32.7-acre plot on the Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital. The Glen Oaks School Campus would be located at 78-70 Grand Central Parkway North on a block bounded by Grand Central Parkway to the north, Commonwealth Boulevard to the east, Union Turnpike to the south and the Cross Island Parkway to the west.

The plan calls for two schools, pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, which would be run by the Chancellor's School District and a high school serving the Queens High School Division. The elementary schools would hold 1,685 students: a 760-seat PS/IS 266Q and a 925-seat PS/IS 208Q serving School District 26 and 29 students. The 1,182-seat high school - the High School of Teaching Professions - would serve all of Queens' high school students.

The plan differs from the original proposal that called for a 704-seat elementary school, a 900-seat intermediate school and a 1,000-seat high school. According to the SCA, the schools are needed in both school districts and the high school division.

District 26, which covers northeast Queens, and District 29, which includes a large segment of southeast Queens, are operating at 105 percent utilization rate in the elementary schools and 100 percent utilization rate in the intermediate schools, the SCA said. Queens high schools are operating at 124 percent of capacity, according to the agency.

Kerick Ou, manager of operations and site acquisitions for the SCA, said efforts were made to inform the public about the meetings. He said the SCA had sent out notices to the district manager of Community Board 13, the two school boards, the superintendents of each school district and announced the meeting on the legal pages of the New York Post.

"No decision has been made and no votes on the plan have been taken," Ou told the nine people who attended. "The meetings were held to get comments from the public."

He said the public comment period would be open until Dec. 2 and the SCA expects to issue a final statement on the plan by the end of December. The purpose of the environmental impact statement was to identify the potential impact and problems the schools and the construction could have on the communities surrounding the project.

Ou said the environmental impact statement examines land use, zoning, historic and archaeological resources, traffic and transportation, air quality, noise, ground and soil conditions, infrastructure, solid waste and construction.

"I would like everyone to note that the Department of Transportation was not involved in the environmental impact statement," Siegal said. "I am not opposed to the schools. We welcome the opportunities the schools provide, but we are concerned that you are planning the project in the blind by not allowing the DOT to come in and agree or disagree with you."

She said the number of students, teachers and parents converging on the campus, which will have only one entrance worries the community. She suggested another entrance be added to the SCA's plan because even staggering the time when students leave the campus will not alleviate dangerous traffic congestion.

"I do not think that the Police Department, Fire Department and EMS would agree you could only have one exit," Siegal said. "This should be looked at now not after you build the buildings."

Richard Hynes, president of the Bellerose-Hillside Civic Association, agreed with Siegal. He questioned how many buses are needed to transport 2,800 students and where the buses are going to park while waiting for the children.

"You need to work out a plan with the community civic organizations because right now at 4 p.m., even if you move the (road) dividers, there is not enough room to handle the traffic," Hynes said.

Tami Rachelson, who works for the Board of Ed School Facility and lives in School District 28, was the only person at the meeting to stand up in support of the existing plan by the SCA. Rachelson said the plan to build schools on the Creedmoor campus was necessary to alleviate school overcrowding in Queens.

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