Sunset residents concerned by lack of updates on landmark precinct

September 8, 2016 Jaime DeJesus
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Where are the updates?

Sunset Park residents feel that they’ve remained in the dark regarding progress made on controversial plans to replace the landmarked former 68th Precinct building at Fourth Avenue and 43rd Street with a school that would seat 300 kids.

The proposal was presented on Monday, June 13 at Community Board 7. Since then, residents have written to the School Construction Authority (SCA) to voice their concerns.

“We are in the very early planning stages and will continue to work closely with the CEC, the community board and local community members throughout the process to ensure the new school serves the needs of students in the area,” a spokesperson for SCA told the paper, contending that it will benefit the community. “The 300 new seats will help alleviate overcrowding in the district and provide an additional option for families in the community.”

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However, more communication is needed according to locals. “What has concerned me the most is that nothing has happened,” said Maria Roca, founder of Friends of Sunset Park, “The deafening silence is scary. The announcement was made at a community board meeting that the SCA was looking at the former precinct as a school. There was a one-month period when many people submitted comments and we haven’t heard anything.”

Sunset Park Restoration Executive Director and founder of Sunset Parker Tony Giordano says most of the members of his site have expressed their displeasure with the SCA’s plan and the slow flow of information. “The overwhelming sense of the community is that they do not want to lose their landmark. For most of today’s older population, there are memories of going into the building,” he said. “Sunset Parkers have voiced the desire to keep the building intact.  The strongest sentiment is that the best possible win for the community would be the SCA buying the property and keeping it fully landmarked with a gut renovation inside for a small school.”

However, not everyone is against the plan. “As someone who has lived the greater part of my life here, yes it is a landmark, but it’s an eyesore,” said CB 7 member Sam Sierra. “We have an opportunity here — 300 seats more for our residents that we don’t have right now. I’m of the humble opinion that we seize this opportunity.”

Others believe the building can be preserved while creating something productive out of it. “As far as the CEC and personally, we are really interested in preserving the essence of the building. We do know it’s a landmark building,” said CEC 15 President Naila Rosario. “As a resident of Sunset Park, I would like to know the essence of the building will remain in the community.”

Some residents and activists have lobbied for alternative sites. On Thursday, August 25 Sunset Park Restoration sent another letter to the SCA suggesting that rather than compromise the beloved landmark, it should build a school on an empty parking lot at 317 44th Street, noting that the lot is around the corner from the landmarked building site, is $7 million cheaper, and is on the east side of Third Avenue, avoiding the need for students to cross the busy strip.

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