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Gresser troubled over SE Queens schools

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If Carol Gresser is elected borough president in November, her priorities for southeast Queens would include improving area schools, eliminating toxic sites and condemning unused buildings.

In a meeting with the TimesLedger Thursday, Gresser said she has noticed great improvements in downtown Jamaica but is deeply troubled by the problems in School District 29.

Gresser, a former Board of Education president, said improving District 29, which covers Springfield Gardens, Rosedale, Laurelton, Queens Village, Cambria Heights and part of South Jamaica, would be one of her priorities as borough president.

“You have a district that’s middle-class home owners whom very often make more money than the Caucasians in the area and they are short-changed when it comes to education,” said Gresser, referring to the predominantly black region.

Gresser said she has seen the school district, which was once one of the top in the city, deteriorate over the past 25 years. The district is about to start its third school year without a superintendent.

Another major problem noted by several southeast Queens community leaders in recent months is the prevalence of toxic waste sites in the area, such as the former West Side factory at 107-10 180th St.

Last month, Gresser joined Saundra Pope, a candidate for City Councilman Archie Spigner’s (D-St. Albans) seat, in a garbage-strewn lot on Baisley Boulevard and 172nd Street in South Jamaica.

According to Pope, the site is owned by Rochdale Village, leased to the city and used by a contractor called CAC Industries, Inc.

Gresser and Pope are working to get written confirmation that construction there will end this month. As of last Thursday, they still did not have any such promises in writing, “which is a disaster,” Gresser said.

Anther issue in Jamaica that concerns Gresser is a property owned by Rita Stark, a landlord with many real estate holdings in southeast Queens and the Rockaways, including the old Long Island Press building on 168th Street.

“They don’t do anything with the property,” Gresser said. “She [Stark] will not rent, she will not renovate she won’t do anything, so I think we have to condemn [it].”

Stark could not be reached for comment at her Hollis-based realty group.

Meanwhile, projects like the AirTrain station and the movie complex at One Jamaica Center continue to develop in downtown Jamaica.

“I think the AirTrain is going to be a help, I think the renovation of Jamaica station is going to be a help,” Gresser said of downtown Jamaica, “but I think the minority businesses down there have to be given a percentage more than they get of any building or any development that takes place there.”

As for the resistance some Springfield Gardens residents expressed about having a Pathmark in their neighborhood, Gresser said “that’s just a question of taste.”

Some decisions, like putting a school or a grocery store in a particular neighborhood, Gresser said, should be made by the community board and the borough president even if the community objects because the development would ultimately uplift the neighborhood.

“I think it’s preparing people, letting them feel they are being informed instead of having government as an entity that does things to them,” Gresser said. “It actually makes them a partner.”

Now that the Pathmark has opened on Springfield Boulevard, Gresser said even those who originally opposed it are singing it’s praises.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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