Maspeth High School has become so ingrained in the community that it’s hard to remember a time when hasn’t been around. But in reality, it opened only 6 short years ago. Its history up until now has been a turbulent one, which this article will recap.
Word came that the city was planning to use eminent domain to acquire the former DL&D factory at 74th Street and 57th Avenue back in 2008. The parties ended up settling on a price and condemnation was not required. The Environmental Impact Statement released in February 2009 was alarming as it contained a traffic analysis that said delays would rise considerably with the addition of the school. And they certainly were correct about that… It also mentioned that the site itself was highly contaminated and that the School Construction Authority would perform a limited cleanup but not a full remediation. Those 2 issues were enough for both local civic organizations and Community Board 5 to reject the idea of a new high school at that location.
Meanwhile, not concerned about these 2 issues in the least, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley took a weak stand against the school by claiming she would not vote for it unless admission priority was given to local students. She made a deal with then-Council Speaker Christine Quinn to vote “no” on the school in order to save face while the rest of the council voted in favor of it in order to appease the Bloomberg Administration and the United Federation of Teachers.
The DOE’s response was that the school would give children from District 24 priority during the admissions process. Crowley started marketing this as a victory, but we knew that this school would not guarantee admission to local kids (meaning those residing in Maspeth, South Elmhurst and Middle Village), who could in fact walk there, because District 24 stretches from Corona to Ridgewood, and other neighborhoods have a lot more kids. We tried to sound the alarm bells on this to no avail. Parents were being fed a line by Crowley and the DOE and many of them unfortunately fell for it hook, line and sinker.
Reality set in back in Fall of 2012 when the rejection letters started arriving. Kids who lived around the corner from the school were rejected while kids residing 3 towns away were accepted. This went on year after year. Meanwhile, Crowley was using the school as a backdrop for her re-election campaign mailers despite having voted against it and not having sent her own children there.
The process changed again earlier this year – for the worse – when it was revealed that Maspeth High School excluded all children currently enrolled in Catholic grammar schools from the admission lottery. Local public school students who listed MHS as their first choice and attended the required open house were also not chosen while students from outside our area who listed it third were accepted. Parents caught on and became irate. A second lottery was held but only a handful of local children were admitted via that process. Then the school magically offered an additional 100 seats. The principal let it slip that he doesn’t like to admit Catholic school students because they frequently opt out of attending and then the school is left with seats that remain empty. Did the concept of a waiting list ever occur to him?
Elected officials are now calling for an investigation as to why this was allowed to happen and for the process to be changed – well, except for Elizabeth Crowley. Her response was to announce at the March CEC meeting before a roomful of angry parents that she is drafting legislation to ensure that the MHS admission process is “more transparent and accessible” in the future, which won't help those rejected this year and still won't guarantee that seats will be reserved for local students moving forward. She also is calling for an expansion of the school into an adjacent building as well as the site of the former AMEF service station in order to accommodate more students. To our knowledge, neither of these sites is on the market and the AMEF site will soon see the construction of a new office building, so this is a pretty farfetched idea, but that is what we have come to expect from Ms. Crowley.