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CB 11 resolved to oppose demise of school districts

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Community Board 11 passed a resolution at its monthly meeting Monday urging Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and local elected officials to stop the clock on eliminating community school districts until the public weighs in on any changes to the city’s school organization.

The board also voted against a zoning variance requested by the Bayside Dialysis Center to expand by 1,800 square feet into its rear yard at 201-10 Northern Blvd.

Home to the city’s highest-performing School District 26, Community Board 11, which covers Auburndale, Bayside, Douglaston, Hollis Hills, Little Neck and Oakland Gardens, asks in its resolution that existing state education laws, which provide for the city to maintain the community school districts, be followed.

“We’re not going to give up without a fight,” said Jerry Iannece, the community board chairman.

The board has formed an ad hoc committee headed by Bayside resident Melvyn Meer to push for the preservation of what Meer called “our beloved District 26.”

Calling the mayor’s plan to replace the 32 community school districts with 10 super-districts “totally unmanageable,” Meer and the committee planned to take its message to elected officials, other community boards and school districts.

“He’s talking about parental involvement, but making the districts so large is just going to defeat that purpose,” said Meer in a phone interview.

Board members also pointed out that eliminating the district would lower their property value as real estate advertisements for homes often list their location in District 26 as a selling point.

Several 45th Avenue homeowners concerned about the planned expansion of the Bayside Dialysis Center also spoke at the meeting, complaining the project would make it even more difficult for them to park on the street and would bring more garbage and noisy deliveries in the middle of the night.

“This is our neighborhood,” said Pauline Compton. “Where are we supposed to park?”

The dialysis center has operated since 1983 and is located on land zoned for commercial use overlaid on a residential area.

John Steffens, the center’s administrator, did not attend the meeting because he was out of the country, said attorney Barbara Hair, who represents the center and spoke at the meeting.

Hair defended what neighbor Mary Carballal said would be “a two-story monstrosity in my bedroom window,” saying that the expansion was needed to increase patient comfort.

“If you reach over, you can almost touch your neighbor,” said Hair, who added that the state Health Department had increased the minimum space requirement around each patient from 80 to 120 feet, making the 1,800-square-foot expansion necessary.

Board members asked Hair if the center could make better use of its interior space or find another facility altogether. Hair said economic and space considerations meant that machines could neither be taken out to create room nor put in the basement, where there is storage and water treatment equipment.

“We really want to work with the neighbors and we think this will be a better condition,” said Howard Hornstein, a partner in the law firm representing the center.

Hornstein said his client would not be increasing its patient load, and that employees and patients mostly used public transportation or were dropped off.

“Parking has never been an issue,” said Hornstein.

Residents living near the center made strong statements to the contrary, displaying poster boards with photographs of their congested street. They also pointed out that the center’s own variance application said the patient load was expected to increase by 40 to 50.

Community Board 11’s land use committee approved the variance at its Jan. 22 meeting, stipulating that certain conditions be met. They included rescheduling middle-of-the-night deliveries, moving garbage pickup from 45th Avenue to Northern Boulevard, and making sure employees do not linger or play loud music, as neighbors have charged.

However, to the satisfaction of the dialysis center’s neighbors, the board voted against recommending the variance, which was scheduled to come before Borough President Helen Marshall on Feb. 6 and before the Board of Standards and Appeals on Mar. 25.

“I’m happy,” said Carballal after the vote, but added, “this is step one.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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