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Despite protest, city eyes Queens Blvd. school: Board 2

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The Board of Education has not given up plans to build a school on Queens Boulevard despite outspoken opposition from the community and the property owner, a local official said last week.

Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley announced at a public meeting last Thursday that a reliable source had told him the Board of Education would come back to the community with a proposal to build a high school at Queens Boulevard and 50th Street, the former site of family-owned Stevens Appliances.

“Now we understand after almost three years they’re coming back to propose another school there,” Conley said in an interview this week. “This is not a rumor.”

School officials could not confirm Conley’s statement.

Although the Board of Ed presented plans for an 800-seat information technology high school on the site to the community board’s land use committee in March, a public hearing for the project scheduled April 19 was canceled and never rescheduled.

At the time a Board of Ed spokeswoman said the meeting had been postponed to gather more information on the site.

Community Board 2 voted overwhelming against the original proposal submitted two years ago to construct an elementary school on the same site.

The property was occupied for more than 50 years by Stevens Appliances, which shut it doors in November 1999 so renovations could be made for a new P.C. Richard & Sons appliance store that was to open by fall 2000.

But the threat of condemnation has prevented P.C. Richard, which signed a 30-year lease in late 1999, from making renovations and opening its store on the site.

The property owner, Sipos Realty, filed a lawsuit in May to force the Board of Education and the School Construction Authority to give up their claim to the land.

“The (School Construction Authority) has this knife touching my throat,” said Howard Taub, a member of the Sipos family who serves as spokesman. “I’m continually being threatened by this knife that they’re going to take my property.”

Taub said it has been months since he has heard any official word on the fate of his property.

Deborah Wetzel, a spokeswoman for the School Construction Authority, said there has been “no change in status on this school,” citing the pending litigation.

Conley stressed that the community is only opposed to the site, not the school itself. He said the Board of Ed has refused to consider alternative sites the community considers more suitable for a school than Queens Boulevard, a busy multi-lane thoroughfare notorious for its high number of pedestrian fatalities.

“It’s beyond our wildest imagination why they can’t listen to what we’re saying,” Conley said. “The Board of Ed has never said, ‘Let us step back and look for the best site possible.’”

Community members had hoped the Board of Ed would give up its controversial plans when budget shortfalls began forcing cuts in school construction plans.

“With a bankrupt system, how much money do they want to pour into this?” Conley said, alluding to the legal battle.

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

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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