A new direction! Sunset Parkers to city: Build schools west of Third Avenue

Manifest destiny: Councilman Carlos Menchaca wants the city to look west of Third Avenue — in Sunset Park's waterfront industrial areas — to build new schools and ease overcrowding.

Go west, young men and women.

Education officials must look west — between Third Avenue and the waterfront — for new public school sites to remedy overcrowding in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge, according to local leaders. The city could lose out on some promising sites if it waits to act, said one member of the local community education council who walked the neighborhood with the School Construction Authority last week to scope out potential sites.

“Part of the dialogue was that we need to take a broader vision and at least consider sites west of Third Avenue,” said District 15 Community Education Council vice president Henry Carrier. “It might not look like the right place right now, but it could be. I’d hate to see some private schools going up there if we miss out on them now.”

But the education honchos need to act quickly, because property values are rising, according to Carrier and a local real estate pro.

“I could tell you the neighborhood is clearly on the rise, with Industry City, access to the subway — particularly closer to 36th Street — prices are rising substantially,” said Scott Klein of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Carrier and other education council members visited 10 sites around the neighborhood during the recent tour, including at least three in the primarily industrial areas between Third Avenue and the harbor, according to a spokesman for Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park).

Truck traffic and exhaust fumes common to the predominately manufacturing-zoned area have turned off some to the idea of building schools there. But locals and city officials need to take the notion seriously given the school district’s overcrowding, Menchaca said.

“Because of the extreme need here, I call on all involved to make a careful examination of locations both east and west of Third Avenue — and of sites both large and small,” he said.

District 15 is 1,000 students over capacity, city records show. And it’s growing faster than the city predicted — a 2012 study projected enrollment in the district would not hit 30,000 students until 2019, but this year’s enrollment is already 30,410, documents show.

Council recently approved a school on the harbor side of Third Avenue in the nearby 20th school district, and that could encourage more serious discussions about siting schools elsewhere in the industrial area, Carrier said.

“That was pointed out during the walk to say that ‘Yes, that kind of stuff is happening,’ ” Carrier said. “It’s a complex issue. There are a lot of concerns down there, but we do need the schools, so it’s worth looking at.”

The authority would not disclose which sites it is seriously considering in order to not spoil negotiations with landowners.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.

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