Aug. 14, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
Many New York City parents remain uncertain as to what awaits them for the coming school year– with discussion of remote and blended learning.
But the 2021/2022 year also remains a mystery for the parents of some Long Island City children.
Many parents in Long Island City are concerned that a new school building that is going up in Hunters Point will not be completed on schedule–and that a large number of children could be left without school space for the 2021/2022 school year.
The new P.S. 384 building is going up on “Parcel F” of the Hunters Point South development and is expected to open in September 2021. However, construction at the 1-35 57th Ave. site has come to a halt since March and parents are worried that it may not open on time.
Construction stopped when COVID-19 struck and has not resumed due to the city’s fiscal crisis. The city had already allocated the funds to the School Construction Authority (SCA) for the building but has since put a freeze on them.
The new building is expected to accommodate the students at P.S.384Q, an incubator school that was established at 27-35 Jackson Ave in 2018. The students–which will range from Kindergarten to 3rd-grade–are expected to move into the new school building in the fall of 2021. The Jackson Avenue site will then close.
The date of opening, however, is uncertain and parents grew nervous when Michael Mirisola, vice-president of the SCA, told civic leaders on a Zoom call Tuesday that he could not predict when the new school building would be finished.
“We are very sorry to say, but the majority of all SCA work has been put on pause,” Mirisola said on the call that was organized by the Court Square Civic Association (CSCA).
“Unfortunately we don’t have any news or a timeline when the building can start again or be completed,” Mirisola said.
Mirisola said, as a rule of thumb, if construction is delayed by one month then the agency would generally miss out on a year. He didn’t elaborate further.
The SCA, however, told the Queens Post in a statement days after the meeting that it still plans to open the school building in September 2021.
“Our goal remains to open all capacity projects on time,” said Kevin Ortiz, a spokesperson for the SCA. “We will assess the impact of the pause on this project when the pause is lifted.”
The CSCA, which advocates on behalf of residents in the Court Square district, said that the construction stoppage is very frustrating as the funds were already allocated for the project.
“It’s disappointing because a lot of these existing commitments were promised and funded,” CSCA president Frank Wu told the Queens Post.
A delay would cause significant overcrowding problems since the Jackson Avenue incubator site is not big enough to accommodate the influx of students expected to go to P.S. 384 in the 2021/2022 school year.
Children attending a neighboring Pre-K center–which is a separate entity but located in the same Jackson Avenue building–are expected to graduate into P.S. 384’s new Hunters Point school building next year. If the new building is not ready there would be a lack of space for them.
“It will become an ugly situation where there is conflict,” Wu said.
“Do you move the older kids to some other school to make room for the younger kids or do you just cancel enrollment for younger kids to keep space for the existing older kids?” he said.
The plan for the incubator school has centered around the new building opening in 2021, which will eventually accommodate 612 students from kindergarten to 5th grade when completed. Officials broke ground on the school in January 2019.
Assembly Member Cathy Nolan said the likely delay is yet another example of the city not producing what’s promised.
“As with the now-closed Court Square Library and the long-delayed Hunters Point Library, the City of New York continues to make promises to our community that are not kept,” Nolan said. “That has to change.”
Nolan said that she has been in contact with the SCA and is working with the mayors office to get answers.