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New architecture school to be built in Ozone Park

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the four-story building with a design befitting its curriculum would be built at a cost of $300 per square foot, a significantly smaller price tag than what was estimated before his administration merged the School Construction Authority into the Department of Education school facilities division.

In July 2001, when the project was initially put out for bid, construction for the school was quoted at $433 per square foot, Bloomberg said.

"Eighteen months ago we completely overhauled the school construction process in New York City," Bloomberg said. "Today's groundbreaking ... shows the savings these reforms are generating."

When the High School of Architecture and Urban planning is complete in April 2006, the four-story building with capacity for more than 1,000 students will boast traditional and high-tech drafting classrooms, a full floor of science labs and display space for students' models.

"It will have all the amenities our children need in these schools," said Deputy Schools Chancellor Kathleen Grimm of the $45 million building that will be fully air-conditioned.

Skanska, which School Construction Authority President William Goldstein said had not bid on a school project since 1995, won the bid for the new facility. The contracting firm is currently completing the ambitious overhaul of the 74th Street/Roosevelt Avenue subway station in Jackson Heights.

With an indoor-outdoor area on the first floor, a display atrium and an outdoor courtyard, the building's design lives up to the specialized curriculum teachers will impart there, Goldstein said.

"The design for this school really befits a school that will specialize in architecture and urban planning," Goldstein said.

The specialized school, for which Bloomberg said admission procedures had not yet been established, is expected to help relieve overcrowding at nearby John Adams High School, Borough President Helen Marshall said.

As the fastest growing of the city's boroughs, Queens is in desperate need not only of schools but of good urban planning as well, Marshall said.

"How wonderful that we're going to be preparing our students to be doing this," Marshall said.

Since the school construction streamlining took effect, the city has called for bids on three school projects - all of them in Queens. The average price per square foot on the projects has dropped to $305, Bloomberg said.

"We've even exceeded the goal we set for ourselves 18 months ago," Bloomberg said.

Over the next five years, Bloomberg said the city plans to dedicate $13.1 billion to construction of and capital improvements to schools under a spending plan that must be approved later this spring.

Reminding legislators that New York City accounts for more than 50 percent of the state's tax revenue, Bloomberg has been pressuring Albany to pick up half the tab.

All told, 90 new schools are to be built in the city.

"This will go a long way toward eliminating overcrowding," the mayor said.

So far the city has identified locations for 23 of the proposed schools.

"Clearly that's the big challenge," Goldstein said. "The city is very dense."

Already, the mayor said, the city has moved to convert administrative office space into classrooms with room for more than 9,000 seats.

"That's the equivalent of building 15 new schools," said Bloomberg, who indicated that the administration has fast-tracked capital projects that would create classroom space for more than 6,000 students in Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island.

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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