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Queens Chronicle

Residents oppose Whitestone school

SCA investigating old Cresthaven Country Club site for high school

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:51 am, Thu Oct 10, 2013.

Several Whitestone residents and officials are concerned about School Construction Authority plans for a high school on the site of the former Cresthaven Country Club.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said that he’s been contacted by several nearby residents, who reported that SCA workers have recently been surveying the site at 150-33 Sixth Ave. Avella noted that the property is in the midst of foreclosure by OneWest Bank.

“This is a quiet, residential neighborhood that has no public transportation options,” he said. “Any new school would have a very negative effect on the quality of life for residents, including increased traffic congestion and parking prioblems.”

Concerned area leaders were scheduled to hold a press conference late Wednesday with 19th District City Council Democratic candidate Paul Vallone to announce their opposition to the SCA plan and to offer alternative sites.

According to Department of Education spokesman David Pena, the proposal is still in the preliminary stages and no official decision has been made.

“As we do throughout the city, we always take preliminary surveys of areas where we have identified a need for new school construction. This is just one area we are surveying. We go through a public process before there is any approval on a particular site,” Pena added.

Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of Community Board 7, said she has learned that the SCA is doing a transportation study and needs assessment. That will be followed by an analysis to determine if the agency has enough money to proceed.

“They would need to negotiate for the site,” Bitterman said, “and then hold a hearing,” adding that she expects the agency to come up with a proposal by Nov. 1.

The property has a long and mixed history. Cresthaven Country Club, operated by Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, was located there for 39 years until it closed in 1989. It was situated on 22 acres and had a fancy clubhouse, five saltwater pools, courts for badminton and tennis and a successful summer day camp.

About 16 acres were sold in 2000 to the Mattone Group, which built 110 luxury homes along the East River waterfront.

In 2006, Avella, then a city councilman, had unsuccessfully urged the Parks Department to purchase the remaining property to be turned into baseball diamonds and other sports fields.

A year later, Whitestone Jewels LLC bought the remaining six Cresthaven acres for $23 million, with plans to build a 55-home gated community. The firm eventually defaulted on its loan.

Enter the SCA. For over a decade, the agency has been looking for property to build a high school in northeastern Queens. At one point it had decided on a location on 172nd Street in Flushing, for a 600-seat technical high school.

The site formerly housed a manufacturing company that made welding rods for the Navy. According to Rhea O’Gorman, president of the Station Road Civic Association, neighbors opposed the school because the property was too small and “we didn’t think it was a good fit for the neighborhood.”

The factory had been closed since the 1990s and O’Gorman said there was much public opposition to a school and eventually the DOE pulled the plan, but never offered a reason why. “The land was contaminated,” O’Gorman said. “The city never released the findings.”

The location is now the Star Nissan service center.

Although the site in Whitestone is larger than the one in Flushing and probably would not house a technical high school, the expense to build it would be high because there are no sewers and the area is known to flood.

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