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H.S. of Telecommunications Add-On Called a ‘Monstrosity’

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Residents have deemed the addition to the High School of Telecommunications a “monstrosity.” To be constructed on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Senator Street, the four-story building fails to stay true to the character of the existing school, locals asserted at a meeting to discuss the design plans. “It’s this monstrosity that does not complement it at all. I think it takes away from it,” said Eric Rouda, president of the Senator Street Block Association. At the center of the complaints was the glass-encased four-story staircase to be located in front of the addition, which residents said was too modern for the historic school at 350 67th Street. “It’s so garish. It doesn’t fit with the building. It doesn’t fit with Senator Street,” which it will face, Rouda said. “The modern element makes it look like the Brooklyn Museum, which is a horror.” Stanley Dahir, design manager for the School Construction Authority (SCA), explained that the staircase will be surrounded by glass – and illuminated from within – because “we’re trying to keep it as a lightweight kind of fixture.” When planning the addition, designers wanted the new building to “complement” the high school. “Whenever we do an addition, the intent is that the addition respects the current building but doesn’t try to become a carbon copy of that building,” Dahir said. The state Historic Preservation Department “wants the building to stand alone.” While the style of the staircase is new to Telecommunications, the remainder of the 20,000-square-foot addition has been designed to appear as much like the school as possible. Containing four classrooms on each floor, the addition maintains the same size and shape as the current building. “It lines up both the corridors and height of the existing building,” said Harris Feinn of STV Architects, the consultant firm to the SCA. “We tried to generate the lines of the new addition…by using the lines of the windows. The windows are matched.” The structure will be built with cast stone, which will resemble the limestone façade of the high school, Dahir said. “The limestone is a little bit more expensive and I’m not sure it lasts as long” as cast stone, Feinn said. Work on the addition will begin in August and take 2? years to complete, said Sassan Manii, project officer for the SCA. The SCA took steps to limit the construction that would be done at Telecommunications. Rather than build two separate additions on each side of the school on Senator Street, the SCA chose to work solely on the corner of Fourth Avenue. “We decided that rather than invade both sides, lose trees, and make both sides smaller, we would work on one side,” explained Feinn, who noted that three of the largest trees on the corner of Senator Street and Fourth Avenue will be preserved. What will not remain are the temporary classroom units, commonly referred to as trailers, which are located in the park across the street from the school and are currently being used as classrooms. The addition will hold these classes and the space the units now occupy will be returned to the city Parks Department. The construction will also allow for the “refurbishing of the auditorium, which has been cut into smaller spaces, into its original condition,” Dahir said. “We’re restoring the auditorium to its former glory – new lighting, updated stage facilities, repairing plaster work,” Feinn said. “Right now the back of it is completely blocked with classrooms. You can’t even tell you’re in an auditorium.” The stained glass windows will be revitalized and the orchestra floor will be replaced so “it will really be the way it was in the old days,” he continued. The cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium will receive air-conditioning systems. With the renovations at Telecommunications and the creation of the addition, residents wondered if the school’s student body would increase. “I’m very upset…When Fort Hamilton expanded, they just put in more kids,” said 72nd Street resident Victoria Hofmo. “Once you do the extension, how many kids will fit in there? Why is there no cap?” If Telecommun­ications’ administration does not place a limit on the number of students it will accept, Rouda worried that the school may be forced to once again resort to using temporary classroom units to educate teens. “My concern is that if the school is raised to 1,215 [students], it’s going to be moved to 1,500 and the trailers will come back,” he said. “Without a cap, it never stops.” An influx of students would result in Senator Street being flooded by teens at dismissal time, cautioned block resident Michael Hojnacki. “It’s the basic volume that’s going to be coming onto that street,” he said. Pat Rodgers, assistant principal of Telecommunications, said the school has not increased its enrollment in several years and has no plans to do so. “We’re not increasing our number of seats,” she said. Residents were also worried about the impact the construction of the addition would have on available parking. “Parking is a major concern for us,” said Ronald Gross, a member of Community Board 10’s zoning committee. “During construction, you’re probably not going to win the battle to get those spaces back,” Dahir said. “You got the crane [and] the scaffolding for a year,” he told locals. For “safety” reasons, he continued, “we’re not going to put a crane over somebody’s car.” In spite of differing opinions on the design plans, residents asked the designers to listen to and address their concerns. “What we would like to see are some modifications to this that take our comments into considerat­ion,” Gross said.

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