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Officials spar over 43rd Ave.school plans

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City officials agree that Corona public schools are extremely overcrowded and that new schools must be built, but those same officials disagree about where at least one of those schools should be built.

City Department of Education officials said Tuesday that public review and design plans are underway for two schools, one at 97-36 43rd Ave., which will add 664 seats in the district, and the other at 110-02 Northern Blvd., which will add 379 seats.

The 43rd Avenue site is an L-shaped, 40,000-square-foot warehouse currently occupied by the Wal-Rich Corp., a plumbing and heating supplies distributor, and the city is forcing the owners to sell the property through eminent domain. The building surrounds the 89th District´╗┐ firehouse and is less than two blocks away from the NYPD’s 110th Precinct house.

Community Board 4 District Manager Richard Italiano said that makes the proposed site dangerous for kids.

“We’re not against new schools,” he said. “We want as many schools as we can get, but that particular site poses a concern. We’re just concerned with the emergency vehicle movements and children walking from school around the street there will be safety hazards.”

CB 4 members met Tuesday night at one of the proposed school construction sites, located at 98th Street between 50th and Christie avenues. An 89th District FDNY member, who asked not to be identified, said he and other fire officials disagree with the proposed location of the school because children traveling to and from school may be hit by passing vehicles and emergency vehicles leaving the firehouse could be slowed down by kids and school buses.

“It’s a terrible idea,” he said. “How are we going to get out of quarters? They claim they’re going to use the other street that’s in back of us, but the street behind us is 12 feet wide. There’s no way the school buses are going to fit behind this building. In my opinion, it’s going to be a very dangerous situation to build a school right next to a fire house.”

DOE officials questioned about the safety concerns did not respond in time for this story.

Andrew Rich, vice president and co-owner of the Wal-Rich Corp., said his company does not want to sell to the city and that moving may hurt his business.

“Wal-Rich has been in business here for 28 years,” he said. “We’re being forced into this situation against our will. We have 30 employees that work here. We’re an ongoing business and we want to stay.”

Italiano said there is not a lot of available space in Corona to build new schools and the community board does not have a specific alternative site for the proposed school.

“We’re always looking for available sites,” he said.

Reach Reporter Chauncey Alcorn by e-mail at calcorn@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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