FOREST HILLS — Plans to convert the former Parkway Hospital into a school to ease overcrowding have been rejected by the Department of Education.
The idea was first suggested by parents during a School District 28 Community Education Council meeting in May at which they met with city officials to discuss overcrowding in the neighborhood.
The former hospital, at 70-35 113th St., has sat empty since it closed in 2008 and has been in and out of auction in recent years.
Several local elected officials, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, expressed support for the school idea, but the DOE said last week that the agency had checked the site and had decided not to pursue the conversion.
The agency would not elaborate on its reasons for the decision.
The issue of school overcrowding became a serious problem in Forest Hills earlier this year after dozens of parents received letters from the DOE notifying them that their kindergartners, zoned for P.S. 196 and P.S. 144, were waitlisted and could be sent to other schools in the district — sometimes outside of Forest Hills.
To alleviate the problem, the DOE cut several pre-K classes in Forest Hills to make room for 75 additional kindergarten seats for the upcoming school year.
The DOE also said it was planning to add 1,096 new school seats in the area by 2019, which would serve both elementary and middle school students.
During the CEC meeting in May a representative for the School Construction Authority announced that a 396-seat elementary addition will be built at P.S. 303 in Forest Hills and that it would possibly open in 2018-2019.
When the SCA announced that it would look into additional locations for the remaining 700 seats in District 28, parents suggested the former hospital site.
Borough President Melinda Katz also recommended the site for school use, but noted that the building would require a lot of renovation and the cost may be an issue, she said.
Karen Koslowitz, who initially wanted the site to be used for affordable or senior housing, said she would also support a new school at the location.
Despite the decision not to consider the hospital site, the Department of Education assured that it was "considering a range of options to continue serving this community and ensure every child has a seat in a high-quality school, which is why we have listened to parents are are adding kindergarten sections at both P.S. 196 and P.S. 144," said spokesman Jason Fink.