HUNTERS POINT — Parents who have been calling for more school seats in growing Long Island City zeroed in on a location for a future school: Hunters Point South, the massive affordable housing complex the city is building on the neighborhood's waterfront.
Nearly 500 people signed a petition asking the Department of Education and Mayor Bill de Blasio to include space for schools in the remaining construction phases of the project to keep up with the influx of new residents the development is expected to bring.
"With the exploding residential developments in Hunter’s Point South, any planning that ignores the need for a new and adequate pre-K-8th grade school as part of the city-sponsored development, tremendously escalates the existent crisis in education and severe lack of seats in this section of Queens," the petition reads.
Hunters Point South will be a seven-building, mixed use development built on 30 acres of the Queens waterfront, where more than half of the 5,000 units will be available to low and middle-income families. The project also includes retail and a park.
A school building opened as part of the first construction phase of the project in 2013, and currently houses a middle school, high school and special needs school.
But parents say more schools are needed, as the DOE has been forced to add pre-k and kindergarten classes at the only local elementary school, P.S./I.S. 78, after dozens of kids were waitlisted there this spring.
Parents fear that if a new school isn't opened soon, the middle school grades at P.S./I.S. 78 will be phased out in order to make seats available for younger students, which officials have acknowledged is a possibility.
Kris Schrey, head of the Long Island City Parents Group, said he feels the city missed several opportunities by not requiring residential developers that have sought variances from the city for their projects — like the plan to build two high-rises at 5Pointz — to include school space as part of the deal.
"We're in this funk right now because in the last two years, these land review hearings weren't utilized to ask for schools," he said. "If they would have asked for it, if they would have demanded it, we would have gotten it."
Schrey and other parents have come up with several suggestions, including converting some of the retail space in the first two buildings at Hunters Point South, which recently opened to tenants, into a school, he said.
They would also like to see plans for the next two buildings of the project — to be built soon by TF Cornerstone — tweaked to include school space, and that the same be done for the final construction phases of the development.
"The thing is, you can't build a school everywhere," said Schrey, saying the School Construction Authority is hampered by the need to find available spaces that are large enough, and suitable, for a school.
"The obstacle is, how do we find a site where we can really get something in a reasonable amount of time, and Hunters Point South would be perfect," he said.
"It's new, it has light, the environmental remediation has been done and its city-owned, [so] you don’t have to negotiate with an owner."
In a statement, DOE spokesman Jason Fink said the agency will "continue to work closely with families and our other partners in Long Island City to explore a variety of potential opportunities to meet the needs of this growing community."