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Rezoning Plan Could Force Queens Students to Cross Six-Lane Road

By Paul DeBenedetto | September 20, 2012 7:39am

EAST ELMHURST — A school rezoning plan in East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights could force some children to cross a six-lane boulevard to attend class when a school sits just blocks away.

The Department of Education's proposal was originally designed to alleviate overcrowding at East Elmhurst's P.S. 127, which is operating at 115 percent capacity. But that plan would have caused some students to cross busy Astoria Boulevard.

The DOE changed the plan to fix that problem, but the revised proposal would force some students to cross Northern Boulevard instead.

Under the plan, a small number of children zoned for Elmhurst's P.S. 148 — including some children who live two blocks away from the school on 89th Street and 32nd Avenue — would instead go to P.S. 228 on 93rd Street and Northern Boulevard, which serves kindergarten through second grade.

After second grade, the students would have to cross six lanes of traffic at Northern Boulevard to attend P.S. 149 on 93rd Street and 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights.

"It's counterproductive, and it's also a safety issue," said Patti Ryan, parent coordinator at P.S. 148. "They hold these meetings, and then they arbitrarily do whatever they want."

Under the plan, the zone currently taken up by P.S. 127 will be split in two, with a new school — P.S. 329, just south of Astoria Boulevard on 97th Street in Corona — opening in 2013.

The zones containing P.S. 148, P.S. 228 and P.S. 149 were also altered slightly to accommodate the change.

At a public hearing about the plan last week, a representative from the teacher's union pointed out the problem to members of the DOE and District 30 Community Education Council, who were caught off-guard.

"We talked about not having children cross major intersections," said Diane Allison, UFT chapter leader at P.S. 148. "Why are we taking children who live on the same block as the school and moving them?"

It's not clear how many students would be affected by the revised plan.

A DOE source said there is a chance the proposal could be modified, pending more input from the council. Isaac Carmignani, the council's co-president, said when the DOE came up with the model, the council took a preliminary look and didn't see any immediate problems.

"Our idea was not the one that was up on the screen," Carmignani said. "Our idea wouldn't have created that little problem. But in trying to accommodate our concerns about the crossing of Astoria Boulevard, and they did it in their way, that problem was created.

"That's why you engage the community," Carmignani added.

While Carmignani said that he expected the problem to be addressed before approval, he admitted it was difficult to create a proposal that would appeal to everyone.

"There's no ideal choice," Carmignani said. "Since the schools are in such close proximity, you'll probably get somebody that's close to one school going to another one."