City nixes plan for high school in Whitestone

The city's School Construction Authority is backing off a plan to build a school at a vacant lot in Whitestone, where a development called Whitestone Jewels had once been planned.
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A rumored plan to build a high school on a six-acre lot in Whitestone, which drew significant community opposition, has been dropped by the city School Construction Authority.

SCA officials announced they would no longer be pursuing the site at an April 17 meeting of the Queens delegation of City Council members, Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said.

“This is a major victory for our area,” Vallone said. “Not because we do not support or need another high school in our district, but because the SCA has clearly taken local input and concerns into their considerat­ion.”

SCA President Lorraine Grillo told Council members at the meeting that the area did not have the necessary infrastructure or transportation to support a high school, according to Vallone.

She also cited strong objections from the community and the potential negative effects the school would have on their quality of life as reasons for abandoning the plan, Vallone said.

Neighbors first noticed SCA officials surveying the site, at 150-33 6th Ave., where Whitestone Jewels once operated, in fall 2013, spurring an outcry and a well-attended protest led by then-candidate Vallone.

“The community was adamantly opposed to it,” said Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association. “It was not the right location to build a school and it would have brought immensely more traffic into the area.”

More than 500 people signed a petition opposing the plan, which Vallone submitted to SCA.

The community has long pined for another high school in District 26 to alleviate its overcrowding problem, but this was not the right place for it, Vallone said.

“There was no infrastructure there. It was just small streets without bus routes,” Vallone said in an interview. “How were you going to get 3,000 students in there?”

Vallone commended what District 26’s schools have been able to accomplish while functioning at overcapacity. The councilman said he sent a letter to the city schools chancellor requesting a hearing to stop the overcrowding in the district’s schools and is going to sit down with the SCA to find a suitable location for a new school.

“We’ve got to find a place for a high school out here,” he said. There are four high schools in District 26.

Cody said he knew the community would be relieved to hear the news the SCA had decided against the Whitestone Jewels site.

“I thank Lorraine Grillo and the School Construction Authority for listening to our community,” he said. “As we’ve always said, the Whitestone Jewels is simply an inappropriate site for a high school, as it completely lacks the infrastructure and transportation options to support the large population the high school will bring.”

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 12:00 am, May 2, 2014
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