Elected officials quizzed representatives from the School Construction Authority on a number of issues affecting the construction of schools in the borough at a meeting of the Queens Borough Board at Borough Hall Monday evening.
Attendees, including Borough President Melinda Katz, were particularly interested in the pace of the removal of “transportable classroom units,” which is trailers that are used to house students in the case of overcrowding.
Michael Mirisola, the external affairs director for the SCA, and Communications Relations Manager Ben Goodman were on hand to answer questions for Katz. Council members Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), Rory Lancman (D-Hilcrest), and City Council Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) were in attendance, along with representatives from the borough’s community boards.
Goodman said 33 TCUs had been removed in the borough thus far, with an additional 52 scheduled for removal. After these removals, Goodman said there would be 70 TCUs remaining and said that TCUs are slated for removal when the SCA can find a way to eliminate the units while keeping the seat count.
“We go at them as we find solutions to the problem,” Mirisola said about the TCU removal process.
Lancman asked the SCA representatives about Public School 131, located in his district at 170-45 84th Ave. in Jamaica Hills. The school operates several TCUs, and Lancman asked if there was a plan to remove the TCUs from this particular school. Goodman replied that it was in process.
“We have a plan, but it depends on when we do the addition for 131,” Goodman said, and Lancman later questioned whether the plans for TCUs scheduled for removal are dependent on public school additions that have not yet been scheduled.
“I think everyone who has one of these trailers should get an update on how real that plan is,” Lancman said.
The 52 TCUs scheduled for removal are in process, according to the SCA, but some are indeed dependent on additions to schools that have not commenced construction. The addition for PS 131 has been funded and been identified as a class size reduction project, according to the SCA, and the adminsitration pledged the project was moving forward even though a timeline was not immediately available.
Mirisola and Goodman also detailed the March 2016 amendments to the SCA’s 2015-2019 Capital Plan. The amendment increased funding for the plan from $13.5 billion to $14.9 billion, with capital investment projects now funded. Goodman said the total plan funded 44,348 new seats citywide, with approximately 80 new buildings scheduled. Katz said five new schools were scheduled for construction in the borough this year.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona