Queens Blvd. Won't Work
It's called the "Boulevard of Broken Bodies" and "Death's Highway" and with good reason. During the past two decades at least 73 people have died on Queens Boulevard in one traffic mishap or another. Scores have been injured.
Many and varied have been the solutions promulgated by all manner of agencies, individuals and civic groups at one time or another. Some of the ideas put forth seem quite reasonable, others are farfetched and on occasion wildly impractical. The fact remains that in some places the boulevard is 12 lanes wide. Young parents pushing strollers, small children, older people, all can consider themselves lucky if they can reach a safety island in the time it takes a traffic signal to change. Getting all the way across on one light is well nigh impossible.
Given the casualty rate, the last thing anyone in his right mind would do is put a school along this busy thoroughfare. Yet this is exactly what the School Construction Authority and the central Board of Education plan to do. The site formerly occupied by the Stevens appliance store at 50th Street and Queens Boulevard has bene tagged by the SCA as the place where a new high school is to be built. The Board of Education and several other agencies agreed.
While we yield to no one in asserting that Queens is in desperate need of schools, it should be obvious that the Queens Boulevard location is no place for a school of any kind. The idea of putting a high school alongside the boulevard is less injudicious than putting an elementary or middle school at the site only by degree. We simply cannot imagine what can have gotten into the heads of whatever powers that be who agreed to this decision. According to "Selected Facilities and Program Sites in New York City, Vol. 4, Queens," issued by the Department of City Planning, in all the borough there is at present not one school immediately on Queens Boulevard, for what appear to us good and obvious reasons. Some schools are within blocks of the thoroughfare and in many cases students must cross the boulevard to get to class or home. However, this is not the same as having a school directly on this heavily traveled traffic artery.
There exists one other excellent reason as to why a school should not be built on the Stevens site: the owners have already contracted with an established appliance chain which plans to build another store on the site. The chain's decision to acquire the Stevens site seems eminently logical--an appliance/electronics store flourished at that the location for 50 years and there is every indication that another such establishment would be equally successful.
For too long New York City has had a reputation as being less than friendly to businesses seeking to operate within its confines. During the past several years the present mayoral administration has done much to reverse this attitude, including abolishing the commercial rent tax and eliminating sales tax on clothing purchases as well as establishing areas where high-tech operations can flourish. Manhattan's Silicon Alley and the new Long Island City central business district are two examples. "Big box" enterprises have been welcomed by consumers, elected officials and some civic groups as encouraging New Yorkers to spend their money in New York, rather than go outside the city and in some cases the state. For the School Construction Authority to invoke eminent domain and seize the site is not only heavy-handed, it is also just plain wrong. Some properties are equally suited for schools or businesses. The Stevens site is obviously not one of them. Besides, whatever happened to the right of an owner to dispose of this property as he sees fit?
There are other sites in Queens where a high school could be built; the Stevens site owners have suggested several to the borough president's task force on schools and to the SCA. We hope that these agencies will follow their suggestions. Queens needs schools. The borough also needs thriving commercial enterprises. One need not drive out the other.