March 14, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
The Court Square Civic Association is calling on the city to turn a large building along Jackson Avenue into a permanent elementary school for the neighborhood.
In a petition created a week ago, the civic group points to the four-story building at 27-35 Jackson Ave. to be purchased and and renovated for a full Pre-K to fifth grade elementary school.
The building has housed a Pre-K center since September 2017, and will also act as the temporary site for P.S. 375, an elementary school set to open on Center Boulevard in 2021, beginning this upcoming school year. The site also holds an immigration services and adult learning center.
Becky Barnes, vice president of the CSCA and chair of the education committee, said she started the petition in response to a complaint long heard in Court Square—that the neighborhood lacks schools and proper infrastructure stemming from a 2001 rezoning to the area.
“Long Island City has been rezoned with very minimal provision for the fact that it’s a neighborhood,” Barnes said. “There are no schools for elementary or middle school students here. All we have is a Pre-K center.”
Barnes notes that hundreds of residential buildings have opened since PS 78, their only zoned elementary school, opened over two decades ago along the Hunters Point waterfront.
And a lot more are on the way. Over 19,000 units are in planning or under construction as of October 2017, according to a recent report from the Long Island City Partnership.
But the focus on the Jackson Avenue building came as the Department of Education recently announced plans to bring P.S. 375’s incubation site there after the community shot down prior plans to have it in Woodside. With the Court Square building already housing a Pre-K center, Barnes says the entire site can easily become a full-fledged school.
“There’s nothing in the way of a permanent school for students from kindergarten to grade five,” Barnes said.
She added that the School Construction Authority can use funds they have allocated in their budget—specifically for Long Island City schools—to add windows, additional floors, outdoor space, and other features to the building.
The petition, which has 673 signatures as of Wednesday morning, is directed at officials from the School Construction Authority, and elected leaders like Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, State Senator Michael Gianaris, and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.
“Court Square needs a school desperately,” Van Bramer said. “There are thousands of new residents calling Court Square home with no place to send their children for elementary school. We need schools and we need them now.”
SCA officials told the CSCA back in a February meeting that they are actively pursuing negotiations for school sites in Court Square. In addition, the SCA reached out to the group last Friday in response to the petition, and offered to meet with the group privately in April, Barnes said.
“We want the community to be developed responsibly,” Barnes said. “We want the Department of Education and the mayor’s office to plan for the community here, not the community that is wanted.”
The Department of Education did not issue a statement to the LIC Post by press time.