For years Principal Donna Geller and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) pushed for an expansion of the school nestled in the middle of a residential block in Astoria. Now those plans have come true with Thursday’s official groundbreaking.
The 60,000-square-foot extension of PS 70 should be completed by September 2015 — with the possibility of an early wrap up in late 2014, architect Peter Bafitis said. The construction will add 24 classrooms with 580 seats, a garden, art and music rooms, administration areas, a new secondary entry and a lobby with tiles saying “welcome” in 50 different languages and a gym.
“My priority was to get a gym,” said Vallone, who allocated about $1 million to the project. “I know how important a gym is, especially given the obesity epidemic.”
The school currently uses one of its three lunch rooms for recreation, Geller said.
“I think it’s fantastic. My gym teacher is thrilled and the kids are thrilled,” she added.
The facility will sit where PS 70’s mini school — a temporary building that Geller said should have lasted for 10 years, but lived next to the school for more than 40 years — once sat. She said in addition to the temporary classrooms being used as a permanent structure, it also posed a safety concern.
“There was an alley between the mini school and the main building,” Geller said. The students had to go out in the wet and cold to eat lunch, attend gym class and use the computers in the main facility. Also, to accommodate teachers staying after hours there would need to be two safety officers — one at the entrance of the main school and one at the mini school.
During construction students who attended class in the semipermanent facility will be squeezed into PS 70’s primary building. Pre-kindergarten students will still use portable trailers because of overcrowding, according to Vallone.
“The huge concern we are getting from parents is the lack of seats in our district. What Peter Vallone did is really a heroic effort to address one of our serious problems,” said Jeff Guyton, co-president of Community District Education Council 30.
The five-story building design blends in with the style of the neighborhood by using the same colors as the surrounding two- and three-story homes, as well as mimicking the wave or curve of the facades of those houses.
The plans also incorporate many green features including semitransparent grates on the tops of the windows. Those sunshades have never been used at a school and will diminish PS 70’s cooling costs, Bafitis said.