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Construction Starts on New Sunnyside Elementary School

SUNNYSIDE — Construction started Thursday on an eagerly anticipated new school building in Sunnyside, where local officials and parents say extra space is desperately needed to relieve years of overcrowding in existing local schools.

P.S. 313 is slated to open at 45-45 42nd St. in September 2014 and will house around 430 students from kindergarten to fifth grade. Though its capacity is small, local officials said the new school comes after years of searching for available spaces to build on.

"Of course it would be wonderful if it was five times the size, but in a crowded neighborhood like this, you have to take the sites as they come," said local State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.

The space, on 42nd Street between Queens Boulevard and 47th Avenue, is a vacant lot once home to the Sunnyside Jewish Center. It is flanked by an existing seven-story apartment building on one side and a row of low-rise brick homes on the other.

"We're right off Queens Boulevard, so it will take some patience from the community," said Mary Leas, of the city's School Construction Authority. "We will work very closely with the neighbors around the building to make sure that we cause the least disruptions possible."

The five-story building will be made of red brick to match the look of the surrounding neighborhood, said Gavin Macrae-Gibson, the architect on the project. The school will have other unique features, including a clock tower and a semi-enclosed play space on its roof.

"This is a fairly small site. The whole lot is taken up by the school," he said, adding that the roof play space will be surrounded by a stainless steel mesh enclosure.

The 75,000-square-foot facility will also have a courtyard in its center, with an early childhood playground for younger students, and a glass corridor that connects one side of the school to the other. The building will hold 20 classrooms, including designated art and science rooms, and a library.

"This school will have room for over 400 young people who will go to school in a beautiful new state-of-the-art facility that we are thrilled about, with some really terrific amenities," City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said.

The project is expected to cost $57 million, the Department of Education said last month.