From the Forum West:
Middle Village attorney Thomas Ognibene has joined up with two local civic groups to file a lawsuit against the School Construction Authority to prevent the city from immediately moving forward with its Maspeth high school project.
Thomas Ognibene, who is running for City Council in November, announced on Monday that he has joined up with civic groups Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together and the Juniper Park Civic Association to file the lawsuit. The civic group’s participation was necessary, he said, in order to give the lawsuit standing – something he expects the SCA to challenge instead of addressing the “substantive issues.”
“The primary goal is to ensure that kids don’t wind up going to school in a highly-toxic environment,” said Ognibene of the lawsuit’s intent. “Unfortunately, the City Council should have stopped this – that’s why we have a City Council.” He accused the DOE of providing the City Council with a “false and misleading report” and said the public was left with no alternative other than filing the lawsuit.
The City Council voted 38 to 10 in April to approve the Department of Education’s plan for a 1,100 seat high school on the former Restaurant Depot site at 74th Street and 57th Avenue. The vote came despite overwhelming opposition from Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who voted against the plan, and local residents. The civic groups charge that it wasn’t until after that vote that the full extent of the site’s contamination was revealed to the public. Last month the city paid $16,250,000 for the site, which was recently listed for $15 million.