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Pre-K Plan for Flushing Meadows Park Sets 'Dangerous Precedent,' Katz Warns

CORONA — A plan to build a large universal pre-K center next to the New York Hall of Science could set a “dangerous precedent” if it’s built without the proper oversight, Borough President Melinda Katz warned in a letter sent to the mayor.

The proposal to construct the new building — which is expected to house hundreds of pre-K seats — was introduced in August 2016.

It will include a STEM curriculum and partnerships with NYSCI for students, officials said.

While Katz said she is in favor of space for pre-K, she was concerned the plan violates the public trust doctrine — which prevents the alienation of public parkland due to private development.

“I believe it is a dangerous precedent to take a portion of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for any use without proper alienation by state legislation for this purpose,” she wrote in the letter sent April 24 and obtained by DNAinfo New York.

The state legislature would need to approve any development in the park. NYSCI’s building was built for the 1964 World’s Fair, and years later was turned into a permanent science museum.

According to the city’s administrative code, the location can be used for “the sole purpose of operating and maintaining a scientific exhibit or exhibits, for the construction, occupation, operation and maintenance” of the museum.

Building a pre-K “in no way could be construed as authorizing the alienation of parkland for the construction of any other structure,” Katz said.

A spokeswoman for the mayor's office said they are reviewing the letter "and will work with her to address her concerns."

A spokesman for NYSCI said they are in the planning stage, and have made "progress on a number of key issues."

"It is a complex project with many interconnected elements, and there are things still to be figured out," he said in a statement. "We don't believe any of the open issues are insurmountable and we'll continue working collaboratively with the city to find the appropriate path forward."

Katz had previously spoken out against bids for multi-day music festivals, which were blocked by the Parks Department two years in a row over concerns of using public space for private use.

The public trust doctrine was also brought up in the appeals court hearing for the "Willets West" project, which is proposing to build a mall on a Citi Field parking lot.