In a bid to attack the overcrowding strangling Queens classrooms Borough President Claire Shulman has been monitoring nearly 60 sites throughout the borough where it might be possible to either add space to existing schools or build new ones.
According to a list obtained by the TimesLedger from the borough president, the city has been eyeing 58 sites around Queens to build additions to schools or construct new ones. Calculations done by the TimesLedger from information on the list showed that about 34,000 classroom seats are in the process of being built or in the early planning stages.
Shulmans efforts have focused in western Queens School Districts 24 and 30, where the borough president has been overseeing projects to build some 11,000 classroom seats.
Proposed school construction in northeastern and central Queens appears to be a lower priority, however, with Shulmans office monitoring the possible addition of fewer than 2,500 seats.
Queens has long been recognized as having the most overcrowded schools in the city. Shulman, who will be forced out of office at the end of the year by term limits, has made building new classroom seats a major priority in the final years of her term.
Of the 58 sites on the citys list, only 17 have a target date for when those schools or additions are slated to open. The remaining 41 are in various stages of construction or were getting city, community board or environmental approval.
Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Shulman, said the list is all conclusive and allows the borough president to maintain a birds- eye view of the school construction.
This is not a make-believe list, he said. We try to fill in the dates as we go.
Some sites listed, such as the landmarked RKO Keiths movie theater in downtown Flushing, are on the list but without any specific information.
Andrews said the idea of building a school on the RKO Keiths site was definitely a possibility and negotiations to obtain the site for a school were in progress.
Its in the preliminary stages, he said. Keiths is still being considered.
While Shulmans office has been keeping an eye on the progress of the 58 sites, the borough president has little power other than negotiation to move projects along. For example, plans for a high school at a property at the intersection of 50th Street and Queens Boulevard may be stalled if the current owners, the Stevens family, follow through on a threatened lawsuit. Such a delay would be reflected in the borough presidents charts.
According to the list, the city has been hoping to built some 7,200 classroom seats in School District 24, headquartered in Glendale; more than 4,400 seats were scheduled to be built in School District 27 in Ozone Park; some 3,900 seats were slated for School District 30, in Astoria and Long Island City; and 3,500 spots for students in the Rosedale-based District 29 were expected to be constructed.
In northeastern and central Queens school districts, the number of classroom seats the city has been proposing to build is considerably less, according to the list.
In Flushings School District 25 a little more than 1,000 classroom seats were to be added, while in School District 28 in Forest Hills 650 seats were slated to be built. In School District 26 in Bayside, one of the top ranked districts in the city and metropolitan region for years, only 704 seats were expected to be constructed.
School Board 26 President Sharon Maurer said school sites were so hard to find in the northeast Queens district that she would encourage parents to call in with potential locations.
If anyone knows of a lot thats buildable or sees a space for district office space or a school, they should call Don Giannotta at the District 26 office at 631-6900.
School District 26 currently uses space in Middle School 74 in Bayside.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2001 Community News Group
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