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Maspeth HS plan in doubt as vote nears

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A proposal for a controversial 1,100−seat high school in Maspeth rolled toward a final City Council showdown this week after a subcommittee declined to vote on it Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking before the Council Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses Committee, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village) argued in favor of local zoning concessions requested by Community Board 5 in its conditional approval of the plan last month and warned she would not support the city Department of Education’s current plan to give students in District 24 priority seating.

“It is important that we build this right,” Crowley said in a statement after the hearing, noting she was still hopeful the DOE could reach a compromise with the community. “As leaders, we cannot allow ourselves to be bullied by a blind policy that does not support the needs of the people we’ve been elected to represent.”

Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing) also spoke at the meeting, lambasting the DOE for its site selection.

“We all need and want to see more high school seats in northern Queens,” he said. “The problem is that the Department of Education goes ahead with one of the most inaccessible sites that is nestled within a quiet residential community.”

Crowley has “a significant amount of support” in the Council, he said.

The final Council vote on the plan was part of the stated Council meeting slated for 1:30 p.m. this Thursday.

Council members at the hearing also heard from more than 30 angry residents from Maspeth and Middle Village, who argued against the DOE plan.

“We don’t want it because it’s just the wrong spot,” said Juniper Park Civic Association President Robert Holden. “A third school in that area is just too much to bear. Seniors trying to use the bus now can’t get on because of all the kids from IS 73.”

The city School Construction Authority is hoping to build the school at the corner of 74th Street and 57th Avenue at the site that once housed Restaurant Depot.

The city is considering invoking eminent domain to claim the property to build the school, which would be divided into two 500−seat themed high schools and also include space for 100 special needs students.

The plan has riled many Maspeth residents and led to an angry Juniper Park Civic meeting last Thursday.

Civic members who opposed the site of the school peppered Crowley with criticism over her position, contending she was not representing the community’s interests.

“I have not changed my position,” Crowley said. “If the DOE does not make this a locally zoned school, I am not going to vote for it.”

As she spoke, Crowley was frequently interrupted by members of the raucous crowd — some who yelled, “Build it in your own neighborhood” and “You don’t care about us.”

Holden said adding the 1,100−seat facility to Maspeth would “erode” the quality of life in the community and called civic association members to action.

“If we do nothing, then we’ll get it,” he said. “But if we stand up against this, we can beat this.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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