State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) is asking the School Construction Authority to do its homework when it comes to picking sites for educational facilities.
As the senator and Bayside residents rallied against the proposal to place a public high school at the former site of the Bayside Jewish Center, located at 203-05 32 Ave., Avella on May 14 introduced legislation that would require the SCA to give elected officials and community boards the reasons as to why a particular site was picked for an educational facility.
Avella said he has been working on the bill for a while, but introduced it two weeks ago after the city announced its plans to have a school at the 32nd Avenue site.
“You could say that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” the senator said in an interview with the Queens Chronicle.
The bill, if signed into law, would require the city to give the reasons why a new school is required in the area, identify any other sites that were considered for the school and why the site chosen won over all other possibilities.
He also said he’s pushing for the legislation because his staff was told by SCA President and Chief Executive Officer Lorraine Grillo that they were not notified of plans for the site because the agency, “didn’t want to give him time to organize” against them.
Avella called that conversation “disrespectful” and said “I think it’s time for Lorraine Grillo to go.”
A Department of Education spokesman said in response to the senator’s legislation, “When a new school site is acquired there is an extensive public review process that includes elected officials, local community councils and members of the public.
“We are working closely with communities in Queens and throughout the city to address issues of overcrowding and we are continually working to ensure opportunities for public feedback,” the spokesman added.
The DOE did not respond to Avella’s statement that Grillo must go.
The proposal to place a high school at the former Jewish Center is not the first controversial SCA proposal in Avella’s district.
The site of Keil Brothers Garden Center, located at 210-11 48 Ave. in nearby Bayside Hills, is also slated to become a school. The Council approved the building of that school in November 2013, with then-Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., of Astoria, and Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) being the only nay votes.
That site, too, has been deemed inappropriate for a school due to traffic and safety concerns, the same worries Avella has of the 32nd Avenue location.
The senator, in his interview, claimed the SCA merely looks for open sites to place schools and does not worry about any effects placing one there could have on a community.
“I don’t think they do their homework at all,” the senator said.
The bill, as of press time, did not have an Assembly sponsor and has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.
Avella said his district does need a new high school.
“But not necessarily in Bayside,” he added.
The senator suggested that a school could be built at The New York Times printing facility in College Point, which is considering a buyout of its lease.