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PS 70 in Astoria begins work on 500-seat wing with gym

Astoria legislators and representatives from the city Department of Education shovel dirt for the groundbreaking of PS 70 in Astoria's forthcoming addition. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

For both City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and PS 70 Principal Donna Geller, the planned addition for the Astoria school is not only long-awaited but the fulfillment of personal promises.

“This is going to be a tremendous thing for the kids of our neighborhood,” Vallone said.

Advocates for PS 70, at 30-45 42nd St., have long wanted a structure to replace its crowded mini-school and trailers on the grounds. City Department of Education and Astoria government officials broke ground on a new $43 million structure Oct. 25, which will include five stories with 24 classrooms, a music suite, an art room, reading and speech resource rooms, a gymnasium and administrative offices. The addition will be fully air conditioned and handicapped accessible.

The project will add more than 500 seats to the school and is expected to be completed in September 2014.

“It’s been a dream that I promised the staff the first day I was principal here,” said Geller, who took the position in 2003.

Vallone said he and Geller had been squirreling away money for the addition for almost 10 years. He said the addition for the school, in the middle of a block on 42nd Street between 30th and 31st avenues, will fit in well with the rest of its neighbors.

Geller said the school would also feature gardens and the tallest part of the addition will say “welcome” in the 51 languages spoken by students at the school.

“PS 70 is a melting pot and representative of all cultures that are in this area,” she said.

The school is in District 30, which encompasses Astoria, Long Island City, East Elmhurst, most of Jackson Heights, a large section of Woodside and a part of Corona. It is one of the most overcrowded school districts in the city.

District 30 President Philip Composto said he expected the students would most enjoy the new gym.

Lorraine Grillo, president of the city School Construction Authority, praised Vallone for his work to get an addition for the school.

“He has been a wonderful advocate, particularly for this school but for all the schools in District 30,” Grillo said.

Earlier this year, the SCA broke ground on IS 297, at 33-35 74th St. in Jackson Heights. The school is expected to add 400 seats to District 30.

But Community District Education Council Co-President Jeff Guyton urged Grillo to add even more seats to the growing communities of western Queens.

“I encourage her to continue this wonderful feeling,” Guyton said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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