The City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Use held a public hearing at City Hall in Manhattan on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 about the proposed Maspeth high school. On Thursday, April 2, the City Council Land Use Committee, followed by the full City Council, voted "yes" on the project, against Council Member Elizabeth Crowley who voted "no" but did not ask her fellow council members for support.
The Juniper Park Civic Association and COMET offered transportation to the hearing via bus which left from Connolly's Corner on Grand Avenue. Lunch was donated by Pioneer supermarket on Grand Avenue.
We intended to testify against the location of the school, not push for it to be locally zoned. An 1100-seat themed high school is not appropriate for our quiet, low-density neighborhood with inadequate public transportation.
However, we were attacked by Councilmember Charles Barron before the public testimony began after he assumed that we were there "to make sure only [our] white children go to the school." The cowardly councilman then left the room without hearing the testimony and the reasons for our opposition to the school plan.
In total, approximately two dozen residents of Maspeth and Middle Village testified against the siting of the school and one person from Woodside testified in favor of it.
The School Construction Authority falsely stated that the current site is not located in a manufacturing zone and also failed to mention why alternate sites near subway were not considered. Councilmember John Liu also questioned the use of eminent domain on this property. Councilmember Crowley again stated that she was in favor of the school but only if students from within 11373, 11378, 11379 and 11385 were guaranteed admission. The Department of Education has repeatedly rejected this proposal.
We were disappointed to learn that although Elizabeth Crowley voted no, she did not ask her fellow council members to vote with her. This was reported by NY1 on Friday, April 3rd and quite obvious in an e-mail sent to the press the day of the vote where Crowley stated:
"I believe the HS proposal we're voting on today still needs work. As a council member it has been difficult accepting and agreeing on the Dept of Education's policies, but I must thank Speaker Quinn for her continued hard work and support as I have worked through the difficulties associated with this proposal.
And while I do not agree with Deputy Mayor Walcott and the Dept of Education policies moreover their reluctance to give priority zoning to those who live closest to the school I do thank Deputy Mayor Walcott for his and the department's focus over the past month on the Maspeth HS project.
I'd like to also thank my colleagues in this body, your knowledge and advice has been invaluable and I am grateful for your support.
I am voting No. Let me clear, I want a school in Maspeth, but I cannot agree with this plan.
In an effort to alleviate the traffic and transit concerns raised by community I asked the Department of Education to compromise on a plan to allow this school to better address the needs and concerns of my community. They did not and as I result I do not support this plan.
As the plan stands now it does not have the approval of the community education council, it does not have the approval of the community board, it does not have the approval of the local civic association. It does not have the full support of local parents. It does not have the support of the local elected officials."
As you will note, she did not end her statement by asking the other council members to vote no along with her. If a council member from an area where a proposed project is located objects to it, it's almost a guarantee that the rest of the council will follow suit. Obviously a deal was made to make Crowley look good to her constituents while also getting the school sited exactly where we don't want it.
This is how things are done behind the scenes in this city, and the residents are the ones who end up suffering.