New Maspeth school unveiled

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The city has come back to Maspeth with a smaller design for the proposed high school at 57th Avenue and 74th Street — but without the local−zoning assurances Community Board 5 members and civic leaders so desperately want.

The school, designed by architect Henry Stoltzman, is slated to be four stories tall. It will include two 500−student high schools and a 100−student District 75 special education school. The previous design was five stories tall, called for two high schools and a middle school and set the maximum capacity for the building at 1,500 students.

The L−shaped building would include an eighth−mile walking track in an outdoor common area and a full−size basketball court and a sculptural garden wall along the front. It is slated to open for the 2012 school year at the site of the old Restaurant Depot building.

“I think it would be a terrific asset to your community,” said Stoltzman, who also designed the new PS 307 in Corona.

The project goes next to the City Council Land Use Committee for approval, at which point the city School Construction Authority can buy the property. The community board is poised to issue its recommendation next month.

But CB 5 members criticized the SCA for disregarding their requests made at the last meeting, including limiting the building height, capping the student population at 1,000, providing parking for school staff and creating a curb cut that would enable school buses to load without blocking traffic.

Mary Leas, project support manager for the School Construction Authority, said the city Department of Education’s policy is not to provide parking for teachers on−site. Because the city does not bus students to its high schools, the only buses using the facility would be the small buses servicing the special education students.

Local zoning — the practice of giving priority in admissions to students in the general area — was the sticking point for many in the community.

“If this was a locally zoned school, that would eliminate the issue of student parking,” CB 5 member Cathy Masi said.

Leas said preference will be given to Queens residents, but not for students in District 24.

“That is the current policy of the DOE,” she said.

Several board members pointed out schools in different communities, including Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts and the Sciences in Bellerose, which gives priority to local students.

Local Zoning was also a problem for Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council 24.

“Unless we can locally zone this school, I don’t see how this community can handle the burden from the rest of Queens,” he said.

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, criticized the SCA’s student estimates in the most crowded school district in the city.

“You can say 1,100 now,” he said. “In reality, by the time this is built, it becomes 1,500. ... You can’t give us any guarantees.”

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

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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