Trying to quell residents’ fears that two 500-seat high schools will be built in congested Flushing, city officials promised Thursday night that it wasn’t a done deal.
An overflowing crowd filled the auditorium of P.S. 214, one of several schools in the immediate vicinity of the proposed high schools at 30-48 Linden Place. Currently located at the site is an office building owned by the Department of Education and used by its Region 3 offices.
Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott moderated the meeting, which was attended by officials from the School Construction Authority, elected officials and residents.
Word leaked out about the high school proposal at a monthly Community District Education Council 25 meeting. It was announced that Region 3 offices had to vacate the building by Aug. 31. Plans call for the building to be razed and replaced with the two high schools.
“I apologize for the way you learned about this. The location is under consideration. They were going to tear down the building, then reach out to the community to see the feasibility of schools there,” Walcott said.
He admitted he hadn’t even known of the proposal until hearing from state Sen. Toby Stavisky, who opposes the plan, believing the area is oversaturated with schools and traffic.
Most of the opposition from audience members focused on traffic. One man said he avoids the P.S. 214 area on 140th Street because the traffic gets backed up in the morning. He takes a roundabout approach to get to the Whitestone Expressway, which is accessible from Linden Place. Also nearby are P.S. 242, an early childhood education center on 137th Street, Flushing High School and a pre-school.
Ross Holden, counsel for the School Construction Authority, told residents that planning for the schools is in the very early stages and it could take up to eight months before a public comment period. But residents replied they didn’t want the plan to proceed at all.
Pauline Chu, a president of the former District 25 School Board who lives in the nearby Mitchell Linden co-op complex, echoed the sentiments of others there that she wants new schools built, but Linden Place was not the right location. She supports Councilman John Liu’s plan to use the site of an existing Home Depot off College Point Boulevard, in a nonresidential area.
“We need to minimize the impact on the community,” Liu said. “We can turn this effort into something positive.”
Walcott noted that the city is seriously looking into the Home Depot site, which is expected to close in the future when another one opens closer to downtown Flushing. Walcott also noted that if the traffic problems on Linden Place and the surrounding area can’t be fixed, “we can stop the project.”
Lorraine Grillo, senior director of real estate for the construction authority, assured the audience, “this (plan) is not a fait accompli.”
After the meeting, Judy Karlan, president of the Mitchell Linden Civic Association, said she is hopeful now the high schools will not be built.
Walcott also promised more meetings with residents. “Tonight made us sensitive to what the community wants. We will follow up on other sites,” he added.