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CB 4 fights city school plan

Corona desperately needs another school, residents and members of Community Board 4 agreed, but they balked last week at the city’s plan to put the facility on a street with no sidewalks, on a property where a local business would be forced out after 28 years and next to an active firehouse.

At its monthly meeting Feb. 2, CB 4 voted almost uniformly against the proposal for the 612-seat K-8 school that the city School Construction Authority hopes to build at 97-36 43rd Ave. on a 40,000-square-foot, L-shaped lot that abuts both 43rd and 44th avenues. The property would also be next to FDNY’s Engine Co. 289 on 43rd Avenue.

“I support school construction, but I don’t think this is a very viable site,” said CB 4 member Judy D’Andrea.

Longtime CB 4 member James Lisa said 43rd Avenue is “like a highway” and that 44th Avenue is narrow and lacks proper amenities for students walking to school.

“What are you going to do?” he said. “Rip up the blocks? Rip up the houses to put in a sidewalk?”

Chris Persheff, site manager for the SCA, said the spot was selected by a real estate broker the agency had hired and pointed out that an alternate site — an abandoned Rite Aid next to Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood — was in the process of being purchased, but would become a school serving the Glendale and Maspeth areas, not Corona.

“We are looking at everything in this area, just because the need is so great,” he said.

Adele Todisco, whose home is next to the property, vowed to fight the plan with her neighbors.

“If I have to get a petition, I will bring it,” she said. “Because nobody, and I mean nobody, wants a school there.”

Andrew Rich, vice president of the Wal-Rich Corp., a plumbing supplies distributor that employs 38 people at the warehouse and has operated from the Corona location since 1982, said the SCA sent them a letter referring to eminent domain procedures on July 8, 2009 — after the family had decided to take the property off the market.

The land had been listed since 2007 when the family began to wonder what they could get in the surging real estate market, Rich said. But they reconsidered when the market collapsed and the plumbing supply business, linked to new home construction, dropped 25 percent.

“We’re not in a position to move even if we wanted to,” he said, noting 12 percent of his business comes from over-the-counter sales at the warehouse.

Police Officer Jeanine Rivera of the 110th Precinct also warned that constructing a school on 43rd Avenue could pose a safety risk for squad cars, which often use the street as a main conduit from the precinct house to the rest of the neighborhood.

“We come through there a lot,” she said. “If you put a school there and we’re trying to get to an emergency, God forbid somebody gets hurt.”

Rivera also pointed out the fact that the school would be located closer to a chicken slaughterhouse than the station house where “spring, summer and fall the smell out of there is ridiculous.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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