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City withdraws plan for 48th Ave. school

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"I think the message is clear and adamant," said Jerry Iannece, the board's chairman. "The community did not want it because of the location. It's not an appropriate site."The agency's School Construction Authority had put forth a plan for a 46,300 square-foot school for 440 students from pre-kindergarten to third grade at 211-06 48th Ave., a block away from the Keil Brothers nursery. The current Jewish center would have been torn down and a new multi-story schoolhouse built on the lot, estimated to measure around 87 feet by 200 feet. The school would have been the first addition since a school for students from the high-performing District 26 opened on the Glen Oaks campus in 2003.Education officials informed the board Monday that they were withdrawing the plan after a series of contentious meetings with Bayside Hills residents who opposed the plan on the grounds that the site was too small and too dangerous for a large school for young children. In addition, the board's education committee voted against the plan last month and City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) met with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott last week to express his concerns over the proposed school. "It's just a no-brainer that (the proposed school at) the Jewish Center was going to cause a controversy," said Michael Feiner, president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association.Not all present at the board meeting were pleased with the news, however. Janice Temple, the Jewish Center of Bayside Hills's financial secretary, said at the meeting the building was still for sale and raised the possibility of a commercial developer buying the site."Our property ... has value and it will be sold," she told the board. "We are not locking the door and walking away."The center had initially approached the city about selling the property for a school in a move that Temple said demonstrated that they "gave much thought to the well-being of our neighbors and the neighborhood."But because the center is merging with another synagogue and must sell the building, the valuable site will now be sold to whoever bids the highest. "We would have to entertain the prospect of selling to a commercial developer," she said. "Our property could legally be turned into a strip mall."With the community opposition trumping the plan, Temple said the outspoken tactics, including fliers and petitions, could now cease."You have your curbside parking spaces again," she said.In addition, eight new board members, all appointed by Borough President Helen Marshall, were introduced at Monday's meeting. Representing Bayside are Daniel Berrios, Paul DiBenedetto, Henry Euler, Incha Kim, Ryan Walsh, and Andrew Presti. Robert Caloras represents Little Neck, and George Karahalis represents Douglaston.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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