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PS 206 teachers fear car theft at school

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Teachers at PS 206 in Rego Park are at the end of their proverbial ropes, but their frustration has nothing to do with education.

The problem, they told board members at the Jan. 26 meeting of Community Board 6, was the fear of having their cars stolen out from under their noses while they teach across the street at PS 206, also called the Horace Harding School.

A number of teachers have already had their cars stolen, Principal Pat Cosentino said, and dozens more fear a similar fate.

"Something has to be done, because we go into that building to do a job and serve the community and we come out feeling violated," said Robin Camhi, a kindergarten teacher at the school whose car was stolen last month.

The school is on the corner of the Horace Harding Expressway (the Long Island Expressway service road) and 97th Place and teachers park on the crowded streets that surround the school, which is in the midst of a residential area of large apartment complexes.

Cosentino said auto thefts have always been a problem in the area but the problem has worsened in recent months.

Teachers say four cars belonging to PS 206 personnel were stolen in the three-week period from Dec. 22 to Jan. 14. In a survey taken in 1998, they said 40 car thefts took place near the school.

Police Capt. John LaValle noted that the number of car thefts in the 112th Precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, dropped 6 percent in 1999.

But the school is in a virtual hot bed of auto thefts because of its close proximity to the Long Island Expressway.

Although the 112th Precinct has one of the lowest overall crime rates in the borough, auto thefts continue to plague Forest Hills and Rego Park. Of the 2,123 crimes logged in the 112th Precinct in 1999, 870 of those - or 41 percent - were automobile thefts.

And car thieves tend to favor areas surrounding Queens Boulevard near the Grand Central Parkway and the Long Island Expressway, where they can make a fast getaway, LaValle has said.

Teachers asked the community board if an arrangement could be made with the large parking garage two blocks away that serves the Sear's mall complex, which houses a Circuit City, Old Navy, and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Community Board 6 Chairman Joe Hennessy said the board could take no action on behalf of PS 206 because that parking garage is a private operation.

State Assemblyman Michael Cohen (D-Forest Hills), attending the meeting on other matters, said he would attempt to approach the parking garage operators on behalf of the school to explore whether a portion of the garage could be reserved for school employees.

"It's gotten to the point where every time an alarm goes off we run to the window to see if it was our car," Camhi said. "We are scared."

"Even the kids know about it," she added. "They ask me, are you OK? Is your car OK?"

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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