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Windsor Terrace Residents Say New School Will Gobble Parking

WINDSOR TERRACE — A plan to build a new K-8 school has residents worried about traffic and parking headaches.

Frustrated residents told city officials Tuesday night they're concerned about school buses traveling on busy Caton Avenue and loss of parking because of the new P.S./I.S. 437, which is slated to open in September 2015 on Caton Avenue and East Seventh Street.

The 757-student school will be 105,000 square feet, with a gymnasium, library, cafeteria, science rooms, a "music suite," an art classroom, and three separate outdoor areas, School Construction Authority officials told Brooklyn's Community Board 7 and residents at a public meeting Tuesday night.

Despite the state-of-the-art features inside the school, residents were more interested in what could happen outside the building.

"You're talking about 1,000 people coming into this building every day and 300 of them are going to be looking for parking," one man said. "We can't find parking now."

Others questioned how school buses will affect traffic on Caton Avenue, which is a trucking route. "There are hundreds of trucks barreling down Caton Avenue," said one woman in the audience. "It's unlivable at times. I'm just afraid this will exacerbate all of that, and no one seems to care."

Some at the meeting blasted SCA officials for not providing detailed answers about how potential traffic problems could be solved. Officials from the SCA — the city agency responsible for building new schools — said it's up to the Department of Transportation to respond to traffic concerns.

That didn't sit well with some in the audience. "I hear you say it's not my problem, it's the DOT's problem — you guys are not going to look very good in 2015 when the school opens and there's a huge boondogle on Caton Avenue," one woman told SCA officials.

The five-story school will be built on what's believed to be the largest piece of undeveloped land in Community District 7, which covers Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace and Greenwood Heights, said Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer. There was once a plan to build an 11-story nursing home on the lot, but the land has been empty for at least a decade, Laufer said.

Development is a sensitive issue in the area, and locals successfully lobbied in 2009 to have a seven-block swath near the new school rezoned to limit the height of new buildings, Laufer said.

That effort was prompted in part by developments such as 23 Caton Place, an eight-story condo building that was supposed to be built on Caton Place between East Eighth Street and Ocean Parkway. The project, which displaced some horses from the nearby Kensington Stables, was never completed and a skeleton of the building now looms above the neighborhood, Laufer said.

Laufer said traffic and parking concerns are "one of the top issues" in the neighborhood, but he noted that several other local schools are on Fourth Avenue, which is also a truck route.

"While we certainly sympathize with that issue, the vast majority of our schools are already located on truck routes, so it's not necessarily a winning argument to say it shouldn't be on a truck route," Laufer said. "We have three years befoe the school is to be built and we’re going to be addressing these issues over the course of the next several months."

P.S./I.S. 437 isn't the only new school planned for the area. P.S. 333, a new elementary school for 332 students, is scheduled to open in September 2014 in the former St. Michael's parish school on Fourth Avenue and 43rd Street, Laufer said.

Other recently opened schools in the neighborhood include the Sunset Park High School on 35th Street and Fourth Avenue — the neighborhood's only high school — and P.S. 971 on Fourth Avenue and 63rd Street, which opened in September 2010.