City's Plan to Shrink School Proposed for Staten Island Angers Residents

By Nicholas Rizzi on December 11, 2012 10:02am 

CHARLESTON — Furious residents of Staten Island's south shore complained Monday night that a promised new school has shrunk to half its original size.

The proposed Charleston Mixed-Used Development plans include a seven-acre, 750-seat kindergarten through eighth-grade school on the undeveloped land.

But residents and elected officials complained at an Economic Development Corporation meeting that they had been promised a 16-acre school on the approximately 63.5-acre site.

“We want the full 16 acres for the school site,” said Frank Morano, chairman of Community Board 3, at Monday's meeting.

“This is the last banked site for a school on the south shore of Staten Island,” he said. "After this, there is no more land.”

City representatives do not respond to comments or questions at public scoping meetings. They give an overview of the project before the meeting's public opinion section, and record the speakers' comments.

In addition to the school, the EDC also plans to build retail stores, a library, senior housing and a park.

The undeveloped land sits near Arthur Kill Road and Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve, next to the Bricktown Centre shopping plaza, which was completed by the EDC in 2005.

Sen. Andrew Lanza said that during discussions for Bricktown, which originally proposed to use the entire land as retail space, the city promised to set aside the majority of land in the Charleston Mixed-Use plan for public use.

“We have needs here and we ought to address the public need before we look to develop the land for private use,” Lanza said.

Originally, only about 12 acres were set aside for retail space. The current plan takes nine acres from the school and adds extra retail space and senior housing, Lanza said.

“Who in this day and age would have the gall to take land out of schools inventory to put in a couple of more stores?” Lanza said.

“I’m not going to support — I’m going to pull out all the stops,” he said. “This is a mismanagement of our taxpayer dollars and our city’s resources.”

The EDC already announced in April that a Staten Island business, Guido Passarelli & Sons, will develop the first section of retail space. It still needs to put out a request for proposals for the other retail section and senior housing.

Residents also complained about the density of the proposed senior housing, which some say violates the character of the neighborhood, and the lack of a sewer system in place in the neighborhood.

“This is what needs to be done. Infrastructure needs to come in first,” said local resident Alan Preto, who said the neighborhood still uses septic systems. “It seems like in Staten Island, they build first and they talk infrastructure later.”

Preto, who said he was generally in favor of the project, said the proposed Englewood Avenue street that would serve as an entrance road would cut into an existing home that is built on land he owns.

He said he did not know what the city planned to do with the occupants of the house.

“Am I to throw my people out?” he asked. “What happens to these people?”

If accepted, the project will be broken up into two phases.  One retail site, the library and the park is expected to be completed in 2015, according to Matt Mason of the EDC.

The second phase will be planned for completion in 2020, as part of the EDC’s Working West Shore 2030 plan.

However, residents at the meeting promised to oppose it every step of the way.

“We’ve been fighting this for years,” said Joe Valentin. “I just hope that the city does a better job, because we’ll be on top of this and we’re not stopping.”

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