"Kids will actually be able to walk to school. Can you imagine that?" Grodenchik said at a joint press conference with City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone).
The three area politicians pushed for funding for the school, which will be known as PS 244 on Franklin Avenue. The need for the school became apparent as the politicians saw overcrowding in the existing downtown schools compounded by the potential construction of up to 3,000 new residential apartments within the next five years.
"We may cut down on the traffic on Franklin Avenue," Grodenchik said. "Parents will now be able to walk their kids to PS 244 instead of drive them to PS 20."
The new school will accommodate kindergarten to third grades, without removing many students from PS 20.
"We want kids to go to school as close as they can to their homes," Grodenchik said.
Funding for the Franklin Avenue school was pulled from the city's capital plan in December. Community School Board 25, which represents Whitestone, College Point, Flushing and Bay Terrace, objected to the removal of the school in a letter to the Department of Education. At that time, Grodenchik also appealed to the School Construction Authority and Department of Education.
According to statistics released within the past year by Borough President Helen Marshall, Queens schools are at 105 percent utilization. District 25 needs 2,658 seats for its 24,467-member student body.
The new Flushing site will accommodate the earliest end of the growing student body, with 440 seats for the three youngest elementary school grades.
"That's the age group that we need to make sure children are not crammed into what the senator calls, 'broom closets,'" Liu said.
The school will cost $22 million to build and the three politicians said they will be vigilant in seeing that the funding is not cut from the city Department of Education budget again.
"This school will help alleviate some of the overcrowding in downtown Flushing," Stavisky said. "We have to make sure it continues in the budget."
Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2004 Community News Group
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