A building that used to be part of a detox center on Parsons Boulevard in Flushing will become a Muslim charter school in the fall.
For more than four years, three buildings that made up the Aurora Concept detox center remained unsold and unkempt. Ken Cohen, president of the Flushing Suburban Civic Association, expressed his dissatisfaction when asked about the condition of the property.
“There are things just laying outside, like mattresses and old vehicles, and the grass is very tall,” Cohen said. “It is an eyesore for anything to be vacant, but this is just an insult to the community.”
He continued, “Recently, there was an application for a school, but it was kicked back. I believe the application was sent in again.”
The second application, which was approved, was for a Muslim-oriented school to be run by the Jamaica Muslim Center.
Aftab Mannan, joint secretary of the Jamaica Muslim Center, said there will be 140 students, from pre-K to seventh grade. “We are hoping that there will not be less, and maybe we will have more,” Mannan added.
He said that the new school will use the same name as the Jamaica facility’s — Al’Mamoor School — and that the school in the center will be closed and the area used for prayer services. Al’Mamoor School will open this September or October, or December at the latest. Al’Mamoor School will be located at 78-31 Parsons Blvd. and when the center raises more money, Mannan hopes to renovate the building at 78-39 and expand.
Aurora Concept was composed of three buildings, the two on Parsons and one at 160-40 78 Road, none of which have been used since 2007. The treatment center was founded in 1972 and offered 107 beds for long-term care, and a large outpatient service that included a teen-drug rehabilitation program. Due to alleged mismanagement of funds in 2006, the program sought help from another nonprofit group, the Samaritan Village of Briarwood. Aurora then entered into a receivership with the state Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, and the two programs agreed to end Aurora Concept.
Since 2007, the properties have been listed as two separate entities — the two buildings on Parsons Boulevard and the one unit on 78th Road. Cohen is not happy that the 78th Road building will be left vacant, feeling that there could be many hazards, such as fires or break-ins.
Mannan said Al’Mamoor is expanding because space in the Jamaica center is so limited. The school in the center has been operating for nine years with the approval of New York State, and Mannan said Al’Mamoor is a charter school that has also been approved by the New York State Board of Regents.
“It follows a curriculum like any other charter school,” he said. “The school is not religion-based, there are just many Muslim students.”
Reflecting the diversity of the borough, the Muslim-heavy school will be just one block away from the Yeshiva Ketana of Queens.
“I have a very, very good feeling,” Mannan said. “I think they are fine. Jamaica Muslim Center has a very good relationship with the Hasidics. The Jews have been very friendly to us. We are very welcoming, as they are welcoming. We are not like other Muslim schools; we are very open-minded.”
Rabbi Yonason Karman of the yeshiva does have concerns, however — not about the religious differences, but about more mundane neighborhood matters.
“I was not aware,” Karman said, when notified of his incoming neighbor. “Nobody spoke to us about it. I’m not very happy. Another school just means congestion and rivalry in the neighborhood, and the neighbors have finally settled down with us coming here. Another school spoke to us about coming and we told them to back off.”
Karman was not the only one in the area unaware of the new school’s entrance into the community. “We have not received anything at all,” said Marie Adam-Ovide, district manager of Community Board 8. “This is the first time I’m hearing this. No one has come to us. If they need a variance, they have to come to us. If the Department of Buildings stated the building is as of right, then they do not need to come.”
Hannah Pribek, community liason for City Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), was also surprised when told about the new use of the building. She spoke to the Department of Buildings and relayed that, “A permit was submitted in June, and it was examined and approved for inside renovations. It is a nonprofit institution, so they have a current certificate of occupancy.”
Cohen, who has known about the building’s future purpose and used to serve on the community board, stated, “I alerted the community. We are pro-education, and we are pleased with it,” he said. “Board 8 has a good relationship with the Muslims and Jews. We are a mixed community. There seems to be some form of harmony; I haven’t heard of any disputes.
“As far as issues with schools, we deal with each individually,” he continued. “We do have plenty of schools, and we have been planning to talk to the yeshivas because there is double- and triple- parking. Maybe some of the schools could dismiss their students on 78th Avenue.”
When notified of Karman’s discontent, Cohen stated that it was the first he heard about a problem with the school and that this created an issue for him. He said he plans to bring people in the community together to talk about any concerns over the project.