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Queens Chronicle

Holden, Nunziato disagree on PS 9

Councilman and Juniper Civic Park Association prez talk about plans

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Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2019 10:30 am

Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) has called PS 9 “dilapidated” and has often criticized the location of the District 75 school for special needs students tucked away in an industrial part of Maspeth.

But one person who disagrees with Holden is Tony Nunziato, the man who replaced him as president of the Juniper Park Civic Association after Holden was elected to the City Council.

“He never noticed there was a school there until he became a councilman, which is understandable,” Nunziato said of the school that’s been at 58-74 57 St. for more than 100 years. “He was never in that part of the area.”

Holden said Nunziato “is totally wrong. I knew for years there was a school there.” The lawmaker acknowledged he didn’t know it was a District 75 school but that once he visited it he believed it didn’t belonged there.

He said of Nunziato, “He hasn’t been inside of it. I’ve been inside. I saw the kids struggling.”

Nunziato said, “Everything else he’s doing phenomenal. With this, he’s totally out of touch.”

He noted a story in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that reported the city’s School Construction Authority is looking for about 70 sites for roughly 45,000 seats that are projected to be needed within approximately five years.

The New York Post reported that the Department of Education has invested $14 million into the school.

“To stop it doesn’t make any sense,” Nunziato said. “Not at all.”

Holden said, “Nobody can tell me that we should be pouring millions into that place for a special needs school.”

The New York Post on Monday published an op-ed written by Holden saying that it’s been over a year since he first walked into PS 9 and he is “still sick to his stomach.”

“You can polish the brass on the Titanic, but it’s still going to sink,” he wrote.

In June 2018, the lawmaker told the Chronicle he couldn’t sleep the night he visited the school.

In his letter to the Post, he said the renovated library and new technology equipment “might cause you to miss the peeling paint falling off the walls in the background.” And the upgraded gym and exercise equipment “cloud the fact that they share a cramped space in the basement with the woefully inadequate kitchen and cafeteria, where a bouncing ball could careen into a child.”

Nunziato said when Holden first visited the building, it was in terrible shape because the renovations were just beginning.

Holden visited the school about a half-dozen times with the most recent visit occurring last December.

He did say he wouldn’t mind if students without special needs used the building for classes after the District 75 students find a state-of-the-art location, though he still doesn’t think the industrial area provides the best environment for a school.

Holden also said the 57th Street site could make a good location for the 104th Precinct as its current facility is older than many other precincts and uses on-street parking.

Christina Wilkinson of the JPCA said she believes the negative talk about PS 9 is “unfair to the faculty and the students and the parents.”

“If the DOE feels that’s a suitable location for a school and they’re putting money into it to fix it up, then why would we walk away from it?” she said.

Wilkinson said the position of the civic has been that both the spot at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale and the current PS 9 should both be schools.

Holden said Wilkinson has been “cherry-picking photos that it’s a wonderful place” and that she hasn’t been inside.

“I have to be able to sleep at night, too,” he said. “Anybody second-guessing me should do a gut check.”

Nunziato said he visited Long Island City where a District 75 school is set up in an area with a number of warehouses. And he says it proves his point about PS 9 and keeping the students there.

“We’re here to help our children,” he said. “We’re not looking to take away spots. We’re looking to enhance them.”

Holden replied that Nunziato and Wilkinson “can say anything they want because they weren’t in it.”

He added, “People that weren’t in it or the people that think they’re protecting their neighborhood and then they want to put the kids second to that, then they have to live with themselves.”

Months ago, there was talk that a homeless shelter could possibly move into the location, which Holden says has led to “hysteria” about the site.

“It gets me angry that people are speaking out against a District 75 school for their self-serving fears that a shelter may go in its place,” he said.

Holden said he proposed moving a school to 78-16 Cooper Ave. before a homeless shelter was ever planned for the site. And Holden said he would fight against a city homeless shelter at the current PS 9 site as he favors smaller, faith-based options.

For a District 75 school, Holden is looking at a potential location in Woodside as well as 78-16 Cooper Ave. He says the Cooper Avenue spot and the current PS 9 site are not linked.

In the meantime, the lawmaker is focusing on moving the special needs students.

“I know I speak for the parents,” he said. “And no parent can tell me that that’s a wonderful environment. And I challenge anybody to tell me that it’s a great place to have kids with special needs.”

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1 comment:

  • Buster57 posted at 4:29 pm on Thu, Aug 1, 2019.

    Buster57 Posts: 79

    If PS 9 isn't adequate for special needs children why is it ok for non-special needs children? IMO Holden just wants District 75 out of his district. The DOE needs MORE and better served, better equipped District 75 locations.