CB Tries to Put Brakes on Two-Year Street Closure to Build New School

By Paul DeBenedetto on January 10, 2013 10:19am 

CORONA — A city plan to close a Corona street for more than two years during the construction of a new school in a former Tiffany glass factory building was rejected by the local community board Tuesday, months after the board recommended that the school not be built.

In a narrow 14-to-10 vote, Queens Community Board 4 voted to reject the request by the School Construction Authority to close a segment of 44th Avenue between 97th Place and Junction Boulevard in Corona during construction of P.S. 315, saying that it would increase congestion and could affect response times from a nearby firehouse and police precinct.

Some members of the board expressed what they said was an ongoing frustration with the plan, saying the city has already moved ahead with construction they never approved in the first place, in part because they felt the building did not match the neighborhood's look.

"We have absolutely no power," said board member Anthony Moreno. "The city does what it wants."

Representatives for the SCA said they needed to close off part of the street to traffic for more than two years in order to safely work on the building, construction of which is estimated to cost more than $40 million by 2015, when the project is slated for completion.

The SCA's plan would replace a brick factory building at 96-18 43rd Ave. with a new 1,100-student school in a school district that is already one of the city's most crowded.

The factory, most recently home to a chicken slaughterhouse, is perhaps most well-known as the former site of Tiffany Glass Furnaces. The company, founded by Louis Comfort Tiffany, designed ornate stained-glass lamps and went out of business in 1932. The Queens Historical Society made the factory an unofficial "Queensmark" in 1999.

Representatives from the SCA who presented the plan at Tuesday's board meeting said that they took the building's history into consideration and designed the structure with an eye to its past, adding multi-colored walls to give the school a color-spectrum look reminiscent of the glass style.

But despite the design, board member Judy D'Andrea, called the idea "a disaster." 

"Your design is beautiful, but it's not reflective of what the rest of the neighborhood looks like," D'Andrea said, adding, "If the whole board didn't approve of the street closing, you'd close it anyway."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said that the community board's vote was only advisory, and that the DOE has applied with the Department of Transportation to have the street closed.

Other board members on Tuesday expressed concern over traffic problems, and how the closed street would affect response times from the nearby fire house and 110th precinct.

"We, the people in this neighborhood, need these people to come to us," said board member Al Perna. "Those houses in that area are going to call our community board every day."

SCA officials said they reached out to local police and firefighters in the area about the change, though a representative from the 110th precinct who was at the meeting said that, to his knowledge, no meetings had taken place, adding that they looked forward to working with the SCA going forward.

But officials also acknowled that there would be some necessary disruption in the neighborhood.

"There's definitely going to be increased traffic in the area," said Dean Johanson, a representative from the SCA. "We'll monitor the situation."

Because of contracts, construction would move forward on the building whether or not the street was closed, the SCA officials said.

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