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School leasing oversight bill supported by CB 7

The board heard from David Palmer and Chris Johnson, attorneys with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, who are leading a campaign to get the legislation passed. Palmer said while there are currently a number of regulations that apply to placing schools on city-owned property with a history of contamination, there is a loophole that does not require the same regulation if the city leases land for a school site. "Right now the city can do whatever it wants," Palmer said. As its name implies, the "Same As" bill would apply the same regulations to leased school sites that currently exist for city-owned schools, which include enrolling in a state environmental clean-up plan as well as the monitoring of the site after cleanup occurs. The bill would also give community boards and the City Council the opportunity to review any application for a school on leased property that has a history of contamination. "We just think it's really important that this be a transparent process," Palmer said.City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who spoke earlier in the meeting, encouraged the board vote in support of the bill and the board did just that, voting unanimously after a brief discussion. The conversation at the meeting, held at Union Plaza Care Center in Flushing, was much less agreeable when Liu spoke on congestion pricing - an issue the board has historically been against.The City Council and the state Legislature have until March 31 to vote on the plan, which would charge drivers to enter Manhattan below 60th Street, or the city will lose out on more than $350 million in federal funding earmarked for the project. Liu, one of the few Queens councilmen to support the plan, said he expects the decision to come down to the wire and that time for public hearings on the proposal has all but passed - a notion that miffed CB 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty. "You should not be coming here with a plan by March 31," Kelty said. Liu said that despite the fact it may be a tax on commuters, he believes congestion pricing is the right thing to do. "Its never a good thing for elected officials to make people pay more," he said. "[Bloomberg] has gone a long way to guarantee that he will provide additional transit options in our area, though." Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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