Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A School for Ozone Park? by Claire Trapasso - NY Daily News

CB 9 to Vote on City Plan to Convert Property

Ozone Park could soon get a new elementary school.

Community Board 9 is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to support a city plan to convert an empty former parochial school into a 416-seat public elementary school. The property, a rare two-building parcel large enough to house a school, is located on the corner of 101st Ave. and 90th St.

"Building a new school is always a good thing," said Nick Comaianni, chairman of of the community board's Youth and Education Committee. "It means that we have more seats and it means we're going to relieve overcrowding somewhere else."

He said he doesn't anticipate opposition to the plan, but issues could arise at the meeting.

"It's very hard to find sites for schools because you need a certain amount of square-footage," he said. "So when we find a site like that, we don't really want to let it go."

The property housed the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church school and convent until last June. The congregation merged with the nearby St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr parish, said Msgr. Kieran Harrington, spokesman for the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens.

"You had two Catholic churches not even a block and a half away from each other, so it just made sense for the parishes to work together," Harrington said. "It's better to combine your resources so you can provide a better education for the kids."

The city has signed a contract to acquire the property but the deal still hinges on the outcome of some city site testing, he said.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said that he supports this proposal because his district could use a new school - and this would help the diocese.

"It's a win-win situation," Ulrich said. "There are a lot of immigrant families moving into the area. Some of them have large families and we want to make sure that we provide them with a quality public education."

A Department of Education official said it was unclear when the new school would open.

"We know Queens families need more new school buildings," agency spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said in a statement. "Despite cuts to school construction from Albany we still intend to move ahead and build as many schools as we can in the neighborhoods that need the most help."

The School Construction Authority will accept public comments on the proposal until March 28, he said. It has to go before the City Council and Mayor Bloomberg before it is approved.