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Queens Blvd. possible site for new high school

As attention has heightened over pedestrian accidents on Queens Boulevard, many Woodside residents expressed dismay this week at Board of Education plans to build a high school on the same boulevard site where they overwhelming opposed the construction of an elementary school last year, Community Board 2 chairman Joe Conley said.

The Board of Ed has authorized the School Construction Authority to evaluate the site as a possible location for a high school, SCA spokesman Dan McCormack said.

“Originally it was going to be an elementary school,” McCormack said. “[The Board of Education] subsequently decided they may want to do a high school there.”

Repeated phone calls to the Board of Ed were not returned.

In a June 2000 meeting, Community Board 2 voted 25-2 against the Board of Ed’s original proposal to build an elementary school at the corner of Queens Boulevard and 50th Street. CB 2 has not heard any official statement on the school proposal since then, Conley said.

“It’s not a community saying Not In My Back Yard,” Conley said. “The community has said no to a school on Queens Boulevard. It’s inappropriate, it’s not well thought-out, and it’s just crazy to put it there in light of all the deaths and accidents on Queens Boulevard.”

A total of 73 pedestrians have been killed in accidents along Queens Boulevard since 1993, nine of them within a 10-block radius of the site.

Conley said CB 2 proposed five alternative sites for the school, which would help provide more seats in School District 24, which is considered the most crowded district in Queens.

The school proposal has disrupted business plans for the Stevens family, which has operated an appliance store for over 50 years on the property being considered for the school.

The Stevens family had negotiated to lease their space to the P.C. Richard & Sons chain of appliance stores when the SCA approached them in December 1999. The threat of losing the site to school construction put P.C. Richard’s plans on hold, and the storefront is now empty.

“Essentially the attitude of P.C. was we want to be there, we want to invest in it, but we’re not going to invest a million bucks in a building if the city may come in in a week or month later to kick us out,” said Tom Butler, a representative of the Stevens family.

According to McCormack, the SCA currently has a license agreement with the Stevens family which gives them access to the property to perform a feasibility study.

However, members of the Stevens family and their lawyers said no such agreement has been made.

“We’re not giving them any agreement to come onto our property,” said Howard Taub, a member of the Stevens family. “They came on once and we locked them in our parking lot, because they were trespassing on our property.”

The Stevens’ lawyer, Howard Weiss, said the family refused the SCA’s December request to extend a license agreement they had arranged early last year.

“The only way they [the SCA] will get onto the property is if they go into court and they seek a court order,” Weiss said. “We’re delighted to do that because we’ll meet them in the courtroom and we’ll raise all the issues that they’ve been sweeping under the carpet about their attempt to place a school right smack in middle of the Boulevard of Death.”

The SCA must hold a public hearing before plans to construct a high school on the Stevens site can go forward. But residents did not have much faith in that process because of the way a similar hearing was conducted last year when the same site was considered for an elementary school.

“There were 100 members of the community there, and the SCA representative was a tape recorder escorted by a staff attorney,” Butler said. “He really didn’t have answers for anyone. He was just there to flip the tape recorder over to meet the requirement that they have the meeting.”

“We expect them to act responsibly and to recognize the fact that this is not the right location, and to continue to work with the community,” Conley said.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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