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Comrie criticizes DOE for moving schools

TimesLedger Newspapers

Jamaica’s Allen Christian School, which opened its doors in 1982, will be closing due to financial difficulties.

“It’s a bad time for everyone financially now,” state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) said. “It will be missed. It’s really been a great school in this community and has an excellent reputation.”

The Jamaica school is run by the Rev. Floyd Flake’s Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral and serves students from pre-kindergarten through the eighth-grade.

“Everything Rev. Flake does, all of his projects are good,” Huntley said. “This was part of his vision, and it certainly was a great vision.”

Neither the church nor the school could be reached for comment.

In the wake of the Allen Christian School’s closing, the city Department of Education is working to lease the space at 171-10 Linden Blvd., but City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said the DOE plan unfairly favors one public school over another.

At issue is putting Hollis’s Cambria Heights Academy into IS 59 in Springfield Gardens when the Eagle Academy for Young Men moves from that spot to the Allen Christian space next fall.

In 2010, the DOE opened the Cambria Heights Academy in a building it leases from St. Gerard church.

“When we originally leased the space, we made it clear that it was a temporary siting,” DOE spokesman Frank Thomas said. “The costs were too high to retrofit the space for a long-term site.”

That same year the DOE co-located the Eagle Academy for Young Men with IS 59, 132-55 Ridgedale St. As the academy made plans to grow, the department sought out a larger space to accommodate it, and it found that space last week when the Allen Christian School announced it would be closing.

Comrie said the school is closing due to low enrollment and the costs of maintaining the private institution.

Thomas said the Allen school’s space will allow Eagle to phase in grades 6-12 next school year.

“We think it’s an appropriate site for Eagle,” he said.

The DOE is now planning to place the Cambria Heights Academy in the Eagle Academy’s former home at IS 59, which has drawn the ire of Comrie.

“The Eagle parents, as soon as they got into the building, they realized [IS] 59 was not a good fit,” he said. “Why would it be imposed on someone else?”

Comrie said the building that houses IS 59 is too small to accommodate two schools, although Thomas said the building is well under 100 percent utilized.

“We believe they have the space there,” the DOE spokesman said. “Frankly, the Eagle Academy has a bigger school.”

Thomas said part of the reason the DOE chose IS 59 was to keep the Cambria Heights Academy in District 29, which covers Jamaica. Queens Village, Laurelton and Rosedale.

Comrie said he thought the move was “based on personal relationships and not on what’s best for children.”

“It rankles me that the DOE would be so heartless and try to create a situation that only tells people there are two levels: the haves and the have-nots,” he said. “If it wasn’t good enough for the Eagle parents, why should it be good enough for everyone else?”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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