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School Near Elevated Tracks Gets Air Conditioners to Shut Out Train Noise

By Jeanmarie Evelly | October 28, 2016 10:02am | Updated on October 31, 2016 8:26am
 Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, parents and staff at P.S. 85 celebrate the installation of air conditioners at the school.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, parents and staff at P.S. 85 celebrate the installation of air conditioners at the school.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

ASTORIA — Things are getting cooler — and quieter — at P.S. 85.

The elementary school adjacent to the noisy elevated N/Q tracks on 31st Street had air conditioners installed for the first time last week — which parents say will finally allow teachers to close windows during warmer weather, helping to block the sound of passing trains outside.

Students previously had to deal with either sweltering classrooms in the warmer months or having to open windows and be disrupted every few minutes by train noise, parents and officials said.

"The teachers and the students had to choose between feeling comfortable or learning," said state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who supplied a $125,000 grant for the air conditioners.

The units — 31 in total, with 10 more to be installed by the end of the year — were put in every classroom with windows facing the subway tracks, the lawmaker said.

"Clearly when a train rumbles by here you cannot learn, you cannot listen to your teacher, you cannot think," Simotas added.

P.S. 85 parents have been asking for years to get more soundproofing at the school, where they say their children's classes are disrupted so often by train noise that kids are taught to hold up the peace sign to let teachers know when they can't hear them.

"Everybody in the school stops talking when when the train goes by," said Lisa Chibis-Tapper, a co-president of the Parent Association.

The Department of Education had previously installed sound-absorbing tiles in the  building to combat the noise, while the MTA has put noise mufflers and other features on the train line's tracks, but the sound is still a problem.

"I don’t think people understand how close the elevated train is to the school, they don't understand how much it really interrupts the learning," said former Parent Association head Evie Hantzopoulos.

She said parents will continue to push for more soundproofing in the building and on the train tracks themselves.

"Our school does amazingly well and we've put up with it," she said, "but why should anyone have to put up with something that can be fixed?"