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Civic wants city to close John Bowne

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Walter Kowsh Jr., the president of the Cedar Grove Civic Homeowners Association of Queensboro Hill, said he was petitioning the city to shutter the school at 65-01 Main St. because of a spate of violent incidents last year, including the assault on a pizza shop owner on Main Street on the north side of the Long Island Expressway.

Kowsh said his association recommended that the high school be relocated to another site. One such location he proposed was Flushing Airport, bounded by 20th Avenue, the Whitestone Expressway and Linden Place in College Point. Kowsh also suggested that the high school be converted into an elementary school for Flushing, which the Board of Education has sought to build on the campus of Queens College.

"It would take a heck of lot less money to convert John Bowne into a public school than to build this specially constructed school," Kowsh said in an interview Monday.

But the president of another Flushing civic group, David Kulick, whose organization, Flushing on the Hill Civic Association, has ardently fought against a proposal to build a 700-seat elementary school at Queens College, said he doubted that Kowsh's suggestion would ever be brought to fruition.

"If they're going to close down Bowne, that's going to take time," Kulick said. "It's a wonderful idea. No one would argue against it. But why would they put a 700-seat elementary school into a 2,000-seat high school?"

In the fall of 1999, civic groups began accusing John Bowne HS students of harassing shop owners along Main Street, just north of the Long Island Expressway. Indeed, some store owners along the thoroughfare who were interviewed in November said they have had merchandise stolen from their stores, have had property vandalized, or have been verbally harassed by teenagers.

And one woman, Enza Berdino, the owner of Il Cimine, at 59-16 Main St., was assaulted Oct. 16 allegedly by three students attending the high school, who were later arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment, said Inspector James Waters, the commander of the 109th Precinct. Waters said Bertino suffered a black eye and was taken to a local hospital.

It was unclear how many criminal incidents had occurred over the last year at the high school. Neither the Board of Education nor Waters returned calls seeking that information by presstime.

Kowsh said that 655 Flushing residents signed petitions addressed to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Schools Chancellor Harold Levy, asking that a "new John Bowne High School with a full-scale football field be located elsewhere" and that it "be built with sufficient staff parking, feeder bus stops, and a full-scale football field with athletic complex."

Many Flushing residents, Kwosh said, have reported instances of students fighting, engaging in "lewd sexual conduct" and urinating on the lawns of homeowners, acts that he said he has recorded on videotape. On one of the petitions, one women penned in the margins that "we are all sick of condoms and kids having sex in our driveways [and] garbage strewn on our property."

In an interview Tuesday, Everton Edwards, the assistant principal of security at John Bowne, said it was unfair to typecast the entire school's student body based on the actions of a few members of that group.

"What they do is not only a reflection of who they are but also a reflection on the school," he said. "So we're working with the borough president and the community to address the issue."

With enrollment as high as 3,800, the high school, which was built to hold no more than 2,500 students, has had to adopt a 12-period day, breaking it into two separate sessions. Some students leave around noon while others are dismissed close to 4:30 p.m., depending on the time they begin.

To gauge the community's concerns, the Queens borough president's office held a meeting Jan. 11 about John Bowne HS, which was attended by civic leaders and various city agencies, including the Police Department and the New York City Transit Authority.

The Police Department said it would consider adding more uniformed officers at the school - there is presently one officer assigned there - and the Transit Authority agreed to provide more buses to alleviate the crowds of students waiting after school for public transportation, said Dan Andrews, a spokesman for the borough president, Claire Shulman.

But Andrews said the borough president was "not entertaining the notion of closing the school."

"We have severe overcrowding in Queens and a lack of seats for high school students," Andrews said. "Closing it down is not something that makes a lot of sense."

Kwosh said he had also sent a letter to Gov. George Pataki, requesting that he and the state commissioner of education, Richard Mills, investigate the criminal incidents reported at John Bowne and to look into closing it down.

"Apparently the city is not doing a good job running its schools," Kwosh said. "Period. That's it."

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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