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Queens Chronicle

Whitestone high school plan is nixed

School Construction Authority decides against disputed property

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Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:39 am, Thu May 8, 2014.

A controversial proposal to build a high school in a remote area of Whitestone has been put to rest by the School Construction Authority.

It was announced last week that Lorraine Grillo, SCA president, had informed the Queens delegation to City Hall that her agency is no longer looking at the former Cresthaven Country Club site for the high school.

The decision was revealed by Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), who had been fighting against the plan since before he was elected to the Council last fall.

“I am thrilled to hear that the SCA is no longer pursuing this site,” Vallone said. “This is a major victory for our area, 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.”

Vallone told the Chronicle on Monday that he will be meeting with SCA officials later this week. “We still need a school,” he said, “but at least they are listening.”

Grillo cited lack of infrastructure and public transportation to support a high school at 150-33 Sixth Ave.

Several area civic groups had opposed the plan for the same reasons, none more vocal or active than the Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association. Kim Cody, its president, said Monday he was happy about the decision after checking with Grillo to make sure it was a reality.

“Queens needs schools, but don’t put it on the front lawns of $1 million homes,” Cody said, referring to 110 luxury houses built along the East River waterfront in the early 2000s.

He noted that the 4.7-acre property, which has no sewers, has been in foreclosure for four years and that the bank intends to claim in the next few months. “We don’t know what will happen and will have to wait and see,” the civic president said.

When the proposal was first announced last fall, rallies were held and petitioners garnered 1,600 signatures from residents against the plan. At the time, Grillo said it was a large piece of property and her agency would be remiss if it didn’t take a serious look at it for a school.

But by December, she had promised Vallone that it would be selected “as the last resort.”

The Whitestone property has a long and varied history. The 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 clubhouse, five saltwater pools, badminton and tennis courts and a summer day camp.

About 16 acres were sold in 2000 to the Mattone Group, which built the luxury homes. In 2007, Whitestone Jewels LLC bought the remaining six acres for $23 million, with plans to build a 55-home gated community.

The firm, however, eventually defaulted on its loan and the site has been boarded up for years. Aside from residences, the property faces the Whitestone Armory.

The SCA has been looking for more than a decade for property to build a high school in northern Queens.

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