Board 3 Considers New School Sites
The February meeting of Community Board 3 started late, which gave some people time to get to the Langston Hughes branch of the Queens Borough Public Library after mistakenly assuming the meeting was being held at its normal site, I.S. 227, the Louis Armstrong School. When business finally commenced, new and proposed schools were discussed and a vote taken, on an operating license renewal application, the fate of which seemed likely to hinge on an unhappy experience two board members recently had with the applicant. There were also a few words spoken about art classes and the perpetual problem of rats.
First to speak about schools was Eleni Mattias, principal of the new P.S. 280, a kindergarten-to-fifth grade school at 34-20 94th St., formerly Blessed Sacrament parochial school. Mattias described it as a school that is handling a number of children who until now have spoken a number of languages other than English. A representative from the School Construction Authority (SCA) was present to explain the proposal to develop a 380-seat elementary school on a small plot in Corona that had formerly been dismissed by SCA as inadequate. Chris Perscheff, site selector for Queens, said that in Corona there is a need for 3,000 seats for students, “and these are 380 of them”. The school would be built at 111-02 Northern Blvd., on a lot SCA had once said was too small for the building desired. Perscheff said the need for more classroom space is so critical that the site has become acceptable and a 20,000-square-foot building is proposed for construction there. Martin Maier of the board asked why the SCA isn’t declaring eminent domain to seize sufficient space for a school. Perscheff replied, “We’re looking in the open market.”
Concerns of board members and others in the audience included a school with an entrance on traffic-heavy Northern Boulevard and located just a few blocks from a Grand Central Parkway exit, that seemed dangerous. Perscheff replied that although the place for an entrance hasn’t been determined yet, he would favor putting it on a side street, that is, 111th Street. The situation was compared to that of P.S. 228, located on Northern Boulevard, but with an entrance at 32-65 93rd St. The board Land Use Committee backed the SCA plan. Some complained it wasn’t definite enough, but one woman said the opportunity shouldn’t be squandered, citing the dozen or so possible school sites selected by former Assemblymember Ivan Lafayette for the SCA’s inspection, all of which were spurned. The general vote was heavily in favor of accepting the SCA’s chosen site.
Golden Town Car & Limousine Service; 32-60 81st St., sought a renewal of its operating license. A woman representing the company said it has 40 cars and 40 drivers, all of whom own their vehicles. She said they could park many of them in the lot owned by Natives Restaurant, 82-22 Northern Blvd., but there was evidently a great deal of street parking, too, which one man said, could be “rough on the neighborhood”. The Board 3 Business and Economic Development Committee approved the license renewal, but an incident that transpired seemed to cast aspersions on Golden Town Car. On a recent occasion, a car from Golden Town was called to Board 3 headquarters, 82-11 37th Ave., to pick up two members, Chair Grace Lawrence and First Vice Chairwoman Marta Lebreton, and take them to their respective homes. When asked what the price would be, the driver said $8. En route, the driver was stopped by a traffic officer and ticketed for having a defective headlight. Lawrence was dropped off first, and when Lebreton reached her destination she was informed by the driver that the fare she was paying would be $8 for each rider, therefore $16. Lebreton handed over a $20 bill and awaited change, only to be told by the driver that he had no money. To top everything off, Lebreton said, she had reached her destination only after having to instruct the driver just where it was, since he had wanted to drop her at some corner he believed was close enough.
Board Member Vasantrai Gandhi said the two women really had no complaint about the alleged double charge, because the company had the right to charge for each destination. Another board member, David Rosero, said the incident should not affect the larger issue of license renewal. When the vote was taken, Lawrence voted to approve but Lebreton voted no. The application for renewal of operating license was approved.
A beer and liquor license application by La Cocina Mexicana, a restaurant at 103-11 39th Ave., was quickly dismissed. La Cocina did not send any representatives to the board, despite what the board called repeated requests, and a spokesperson for the 115th Police Precinct said an alcohol license at that address would be unwise.
The Jackson Heights Art Club, founded in 1948, with Web site www.jacksonheightsartclub.org, was praised by Maier, who is a student there. He introduced its current director, Eric March, who reviewed the program of oil and acrylic painting, watercolors and drawing that goes on six days a week at St. Mark’s Church, 33-50 82nd St.
District Manager Giovanna Reid responded to the allegation that the board was not attentive to the apparently worsening situation of rodent infestation in district neighborhoods. Board 3 is “doing everything [it] can as a community board” toward meeting its mandate to handle the problem, she said. The chief cause of a plague of rats in local houses and backyards is a lack of a cooperative effort on the part of residents in getting rid of refuse, she added, pointing out that, for instance, a whole block must put out its refuse for collection all at once and programs advising on that issue should be promoted.