A meeting with Councilman Paul Vallone and education officials on Monday couldn’t quell the concerns of Bayside residents still adamantly opposed to a school proposed for the former Bayside Jewish Center.
Vallone was only a few minutes into his introductory remarks when the audience interruptions began. The councilman pointed out that, as the Bayside Jewish Center and the School Construction Authority (SCA) had already entered into a contract, he thought it unlikely that plans for the school would be squashed at this point.
“I’m more of a realist than someone who’s going to stand on the corner and say it’s not going to happen,” Vallone said over the grumbling of audience members.
The councilman added that the situation was delicate and would likely draw criticism from residents no matter which site was chosen, and that he believed the SCA site selection process in general should be changed to increase transparency. Vallone also noted that his constituents in Community Board 11 have often commented about a dire need for school seats in the area.
In a joint letter sent to SCA President and Chief Executive Officer Lorraine Grillo on Tuesday, Congresswoman Grace Meng and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein asked that the SCA rescind its contract with the Bayside Jewish Center due to the lack of support from the Bayside community.
“The process that the School Construction Authority (SCA) uses to purchase property for siting new schools is flawed, and does not offer the residents, the community board, or elected officials any opportunity for input until after the contract negotiations have begun,” read the statement.
State Senator Tony Avella previously opposed the plan, holding opposition rallies outside the center in recent months.
From the Queens Tribune:
Addressing his disgruntled constituents, Vallone argued that the proposed school was a deal between two private parties and that it wasn’t in his power or anybody else’s to stop it.
“We go along with this journey as it happens,” he said, “We can’t stop it.”
Chadney Spencer, who opposed the school, said Vallone had taken a different stance when a high school was proposed in Whitestone.
“You ran around defending Whitestone to get the vote,” he said.
The SCA abandoned plans for the Whitestone site, at 150-33 6th Ave, after Vallone and other community members protested and petitioned.
The Queens Tribune reported in April 2014 that “Vallone personally delivered more than 500 signatures against the plan to [SCA CEO Lorraine] Grillo.”
Vallone said in a statement at the time “I never stopped pushing the SCA to commit to abandoning this plan.”
A Vallone staffer said the Whitestone site had not progressed as far in the sales process at the time that Vallone opposed it, and that Vallone had been acting as a private individual to protest the site, as he was not an elected official at the time. The staffer also said the Whitestone site had been a more inappropriate site than the Bayside one.
Isn't it interesting that this Vallone staffer is anonymous in this story and that he/she doesn't seem to know that Vallone assumed power on January 1, 2014 and the school was nixed April 2014?