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Civic members in Jackson Heights eager to acquire more green space for their densely populated neighborhood are banding together to raise money to prevent the Garden School, a private institution, from selling its athletic field to a developer instead of the city.
“I believe our neighborhood cannot sustain any more tall buildings,” said Dudley Stewart, a member of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance.
The Garden School, on 33-16 79th St. in Jackson Heights, had been planning to sell its athletic field adjacent to the school. City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) obtained $4 million and Borough President Helen Marshall secured $1 million to buy the land and use it for park space, but the Garden School has put the land on the market, saying while it wanted to sell to the city, the K-12 school needed the money within a more immediate time period.
Dromm said he had heard the school planned to sell to a developer at a school function Jan. 20.
The Garden School did not respond to repeated calls for comment.
The athletic field has been placed on Massey Knakal Realty Service’s website for $5.25 million. It is listed as having 20,000 square feet with 68,000 feet of buildable space.
Upon hearing about the plans to sell, the community mobilized Jan. 26 at a meeting attended by 150 people, Stewart said. While there, the community members offered to raise funds so the Garden School could cover its expenses, salary and other payments for the next year.
State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) said the raised funds would essentially be used to create a foundation that would loan the money to the school, meaning that even if the school decides to go with a developer after all, the residents would receive their money back.
“The Garden School seemed to be extremely receptive [to the plan],” DenDekker said. “Their major issue is a short-term financial crunch.”
Stewart said the alliance has received pledges adding up to thousands of dollars. He is working to set up a bank account to manage the funds.
“They’re working very hard to make this happen,” said Dromm, who has long bemoaned the district’s small amount of park space, “so I’m hoping it will be successful.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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