May 26, 2015 By Michael Florio
The plan to build a new school in Jackson Heights took another step forward last week when Community Board 3 came out in support of it.
The new school is expected to be built at the former location of the White Castle regional headquarters (69-01 34th Avenue) and would open September 2019. It would be a 450-seat elementary school.
Representatives from the School Construction Authority, a city agency in charge of building schools, presented the design plans to community board 3 members last Thursday.
The SCA plans to acquire the site, demolish the existing building and construct a four-to-five story building.
Kenrick Ou, director of SCA’s real estate group, said that there is a shortage of school seats in Jackson Heights. He said that a recent Department of Education (DOE) Capital Plan report indicated that 1,300 additional seats were needed.
“We believe this is a great location, poised to help overcrowding in nearby schools such as P.S. 152 and P.S. 69,” he said.
“The need for a school in this district is not fabricated,” said Danielle Schaaff, SCA Community Relations Manager. “There will always be a need for seats in this district.”
The community board, which unanimously voted in favor of the proposal, expressed some concerns. It questioned the location and was uncertain about pedestrian safety, noise and pollution.
Schaaff said that safety is the SCA’s number one concern and these worries would all be addressed in the design process, which has not yet started. She stated in the past, schools have been constructed with a wide sidewalk to make it safer for children to leave the building.
She said the main entrance of the school would be positioned away from the BQE, which is the area with the most traffic.
Ou added that many schools in New York City are constructed alongside train or subway lines, or high traffic locations, so the SCA makes it mandatory that new school buildings provide noise-attenuating windows, to prevent distracting exterior noises in the classroom.
He said there are other ways in design process to address this concern, such as what has been done to P.S. 307, which is located right off of Roosevelt Ave on 100th Street, next to the 7-train. The windowless auditorium was placed alongside the train tracks to prevent noise coming into the classroom.
Currently, the school proposal is going through the SCA’s public review process. With the community board signing off on it, the next step is for it to be discussed at a education council hearing.
Ou said the SCA will continue to accept public comment on the proposal until June 6. The SCA would then review all comments and consider going forward with it in its current plans, modifying it or withdrawing it.
“Due to the need for seats, I would be surprised if we dropped the proposal,” he said.
Schaaff said if everything goes according to schedule the school would open in September, 2019.
“By the time this school opens there will likely be a need for one or two more [schools] in the district,” she said.