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Civic has low expectations for new school plan

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News that the city School Construction Authority would present a new proposal in January for a intermediate−high school complex in Maspeth brought waves of criticism from the community board and the area’s largest civic association.

“We need a high school,” said Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, at a meeting last Thursday. “However, when you have two other schools, there will be potentially 5,000 students. It is going to be a big problem, especially in the commercial district.”

The initial proposal, which Community Board 5 rejected in May, called for a four−story building that would include one middle school and two high schools with a capacity of 1,650 students. The proposed school would encompass 190,000 square feet with a 45,000−s­quare−fo­otprint at 74th Street and 57th Avenue.

IS 73 is located at 54th Avenue and 70th Street, while PS 58 is at Grand Avenue and 72nd Street.

Walter Sanchez, CB 5’s Land Use Committee head, said he had heard nothing new about the school plan since the last time the SCA presented it to the board, but he was not optimistic about any major changes to the plan.

“It’s not like we’re going to sit down and negotiate with them,” he said at a CB 5 meeting Dec. 10.

Holden complained that the area has limited access routes because of the Long Island Expressway, railroad tracks and the cemetery, leaving few major roads for the heavy traffic that comes when school gets out in the afternoon.

Pointing out that “74th Street is a major thoroughfa­re,” he said, “if that gets clogged because of 2,000 kids over there, people will give up and they’ll start moving out.”

He also noted there is talk of converting the location into a bowling alley rather than a school.

JPCA member Manny Caruana, who lives near the proposed school site, also attacked the SCA’s plan.

“If there ever was a clear−cut case of overdevelopment, this is it,” he said. “It’s going to absolutely devastate the community.”

Caruana said he currently does not let his 91−year−old father go out on Grand Avenue because of the large number of rowdy students going home from PS 73 and PS 58.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D−Forest Hills), who also attended the Juniper Park meeting, criticized the SCA for not trying to find a better deal on a new parcel of land now that real estate prices are dropping.

“They’re a classic example of fighting the last war,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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