But the center's leaders are wringing their hands over the Department of Education's decision last week to back out of purchasing the building after fiery opposition from Bayside Hills residents and Community Board 11. They were left to find a new buyer after investing nine months in courting the city and spending money on legal fees."We're back to less than square one," said Janice Temple, financial secretary of the center at 211-06 48th Ave. "It really was a NIMBY," she said, referring to what she sees as anti-development sentiment pithily called Not In My Back Yard. "This fire just grew out of hand."Opposition to the proposed 440-seat, 46,300-square-foot school for pre-K to third grade students had grown steadily since last summer when the center announced its plans to move to another synagogue, the Jewish Center of Bayside Oaks on Cloverdale Boulevard, due to declining membership in both areas. "We decided to consolidate with another center, and we both need the proceeds of the sale to survive," said Dr. Leonard Stieglitz, president of the center. The leaders of the Bayside Hills synagogue then approached the city in June about turning their building into a school."I had always been reading about the huge shortage of schools, so I called the Department of Education," Temple said. "They responded very quickly. They called this location a godsend."But perhaps the city tipped its hand too early, she said, by also inquiring about purchasing the two adjoining houses behind the center in an effort to buy more land for the proposed school."People got inflamed, and they got the community mobilized," she said. "Our councilman vacillated. Once (City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he wouldn't support it, it would have been futile to go through with it."Local residents contended the site, a block away from Keil Brothers Nursery and on a busy avenue, was too small for a school and too dangerous for young children, and that traffic would clog the streets. CB 11's education committee had voted against the school, and Avella had spoken to Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott about the community's concerns, leading to the city's April 4 announcement that the Department of Education was withdrawing the proposal and leaving the center without a buyer.The center's president, Dr. Leonard Stieglitz, said the community's myopia has short-changed the area's children and District 26, which Department of Education officials has said will need 2,000 more seats in the next decade to accommodate projected population growth. "CB 11 gloats over PS 130, and it's on Francis Lewis Boulevard," Stieglitz said. "I go by IS 74 many mornings, and it's located on the service road of the Long Island Expressway." Temple said the center will continue showing the site to prospective buyers, including an open house scheduled for Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Temple estimated the building's value at more than $3 million, and with the commercial zoning on 48th Avenue, she noted that the location could "easily be a two-story strip mall." "We'd still like to see a facility that serves the community, but we have to look out for our fiduciary interests too," Stieglitz said.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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