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Bloomberg to reassess plan for Gateway H.S.

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Plans to build the Gateway School have hit resistance at every turn -- from contentions that its size would cause overcrowding to the preliminary findings that its site was contaminated with petroleum. "It would bring over-congestion, the bus lines would be jammed, it doesn't make sense," said Robert Trabold, a member of the Hillcrest Citizens for Neighborhood Preservation who has been most active in protesting the school.Trabold reminded Bloomberg that the 29,000 students who currently attend St. John's University and the numerous public and parochial schools in the 107th Precinct are the most of any other precinct in the city. That, he said, coupled with the large number of patients and staff at QHC, makes Hillcrest a less than viable candidate to host another high school."Perhaps it can be relocated," he said, suggesting a site near Jamaica Hospital.Bloomberg remained on the fence but hinted at considering altercations to the plans, such as cutting enrollment by half and examining possible contamination effects."This is indeed a community that's doing more than its share," he said. "I'm not going to promise anything, but an 800-student school is a big school and we don't even know if we can build on the land."Bloomberg said he would ask the city's Department of Education to look at a school size that is suitable for the area.A study by the School Construction Authority revealed in February that the site, which used to house a morgue, was polluted with elements of petroleum. Pending a review of the report and a complete cleanup, the contamination could delay or halt construction of the school.Diane Cohen, Community Board 8 district manager, said she was waiting for a nod from the School Construction Authority before holding a board hearing on the issue of site selection.Another smaller but equally heated issue raised at the meeting involved the construction of a private driveway at 82nd Road and 166th Street that civic leaders say is too close to the corner and out of character since it would be the only driveway on the residential block. Hillcrest Estates Civic Association President Kevin Forrestal and his wife, Jackie, said the driveway violated building codes that required it to be at least 50 feet from the corner, and the property received a stop-work order in the summer. That order was rescinded last month and the two civic leaders asked why at the meeting.Bloomberg and Department of Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster said the DOB would meet with the Forrestals to resolve the issue."We want to do this as quickly as possible," Lancaster said. She added, however, that since the house rested on a corner, the owner could pick which street front to be the front lawn, which permits a driveway.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Updated 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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