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The city Department of Education will rename the Glen Oaks Campus after state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) Monday, nearly a decade after the senator brokered a deal that created the sprawling school complex.
Padavan's name will grace the front entrance to the 32-acre campus on Union Turnpike and Commonwealth Boulevard in Bellerose, which houses two K-8 schools and a high school for 3,000 students.
"It's very nice of them to do this and I'm very grateful," Padavan said.
Civic leaders, education officials and representatives for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein are expected to attend the 10 a.m. ceremony. A luncheon was scheduled to take place at the nearby Queens County Farm Museum following the event.
"I think it's a great thing," said Richard Hellenbrecht, chairman of Community Board 13, which covers the campus. "Frank is an extraordinary person who does so much for the community."
The state previously owned the land where the campus is now situated, which housed buildings associated with the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.
"I'd gotten wind that the state Office of Mental Health was going to dispose of these 32 acres and sell them to the highest bidder," Padavan said.
In August 1998, Padavan said he met with then-Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew and suggested the location would be a good opportunity to build new schools to address overcrowding problems in his district.
Crew agreed with Padavan, and in January 1999, the senator introduced legislation for the state to transfer the land to the city DOE so the school complex could be built.
State Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) sponsored the bill in the Assembly.
The legislation was passed, and what Padavan called the largest construction project the city DOE had ever undertaken at the time was underway.
Nearby residents of Glen Oaks Village were concerned that the new schools would create parking and traffic problems in the neighborhood, Padavan said, so he suggested an elaborate road system be built for the campus.
To do that, Padavan said a variance was needed from the state to cut roads through the property. He said a network of roads was built on the north and south sides of Union Turnpike to create entrances and exits through the campus that can be accessed over the Cross Island Parkway and underneath Union Turnpike.
Numerous parking spaces were constructed on the campus so parents, school buses and delivery trucks would not congest nearby roads, Padavan said.
"I don't know of any school complex or a single school that has that much parking on campus," he said.
The state OMH buildings also had to be demolished to accommodate the three schools.
It took three years to complete the project and the schools opened in 2003.
"It's really quite a remarkable place," Padavan said. "It was quite an engineering feat in many ways."
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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