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College Point ballfields rejected as school site

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In deciding on a site for a proposed elementary school in School District 25, the Board of Education dismissed a 2.4-acre piece of land leased by the city to the College Point Sports Association as well as six other potential locations.

The proposal for the 430-seat school, which the Board of Education wants to build on Franklin Avenue and Colden Street in Flushing, was rejected last week by Community Board 7 in a 19-7 vote. The chief concern, the board members said, was that the analysis given in a report by the Board of Education was overly vague, failing to address what impact, if any, the school would have on traffic and parking, among other things.

Queens Borough President Claire Shulman said in an interview with the TimesLedger Newspapers Friday that despite the community’s opposition to the school, she will nonetheless recommend that it be built on the plot that the Board of Education proposed.

But at least one of the sites that were analyzed and rejected by the Board of Education has raised concerns among some in the community covered by School District 25. That site on which the College Point Sports Complex is being developed, a 22-acre leveled parcel on 130th Street near 23rd Avenue, was dismissed because it was found that the land needed “extensive environmental remediation,” the report said.

Since 1997, the College Point Sports Complex has remained shut after inspectors from the city Sanitation Department found below-grade construction and demolition debris dumped in the fields. Early last month, a grand jury handed up a 731-count indictment, charging three contractors, two of them in Queens, with illegally trucking in the debris.

So far the city has spent $10 million on cleaning up the fields, an amount that could increase by another $5 million in the next few years. Throughout the closing and the cleanup of the fields, hundreds of children in College Point have had to play baseball, basketball and other sports in parks elsewhere in Queens.

On one hand, the president of the College Point Sports Association said the space that would be allotted for a school is too small to encroach upon the development of the fields. On the other, the chairman of Community Board 7 is opposed to portioning off that parcel for a school, saying northern Queens is short on park space.

“This is the only recreational area we have in the complex,” said Gene Kelty, the chairman of Community Board 7. “I’d rather develop it and keep the school somewhere else.”

Tony Avella, the president of the College Point Sports Association, disagreed. “The general feeling is that the association has no opposition,” he said. “Obviously, we need additional schools in the area, and I think there is probably plenty of room on the site.”

The school district, encompassing Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Bay Terrace and part of Auburndale, is not nearly as overcrowded as others in the borough. According to the Board of Education report, there are more than 18,000 students enrolled in public schools in School District 25, edging past the maximum allowable in the district by 754.

But in Friday’s interview, Queens Borough President Claire Shulman said she would recommend that the site in Flushing be approved despite opposition from Community Board 7.

“I’m going with it anyway,” the borough president said. “You’re turning it down because you didn’t get the information when we need the seats desperately?”

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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