City has been ‘cold calling’ around Sunset Park to find school-development sites

City has been ‘cold calling’ around Sunset Park to find school-development sites
New Line Cinema

On the drawing board: Nine locations where the city is considering building a school — including the landmarked 68th Precinct Station House.

Map by Caroline Spivack

A, B, C — always be constructing.

City workers scrambling to ease school overcrowding are cold-calling property owners in Sunset Park and asking whether they will sell their land so the city can build new classrooms, according to a letter the School Construction Authority recently sent to local leaders outlining eight potential new class sites in District 15, which stretches from Sunset Park to Cobble Hill.

“The tremendous challenge facing us is a difficulty finding sites that are large enough and suitable for building new schools,” agency head Lorraine Grillo recently wrote in a letter to local leaders. “In neighborhoods such as Sunset Park, where capacity needs are great, our brokers will ‘cold call’ property owners in an effort to identify new opportunities and create new connections.”

But the good leads — the proverbial “Glengarry leads” — are coming from Community Board 7, which has helped the agency identify seven potential construction sites in Sunset Park.

And the city don’t walk on a lot lest it wants to buy — officials have set aside more than $325 million to create roughly 3,800 seats — more than 2,000 in Sunset Park alone — over the next five years.

The other properties identified in the letter are apartment buildings and warehouses between Fourth and 51st streets. The Authority is still studying whether the sites meet its guidelines for lot size, location, and property history.

Just over 32,630 students are enrolled in the district — 2,600 more than the collective number of school seats in the district, according to enrollment and school capacity records from the Department of Education.

The School Construction Authority has also begun looking at industrial sections between Third Avenue and the waterfront, though the area is not ideal because it would require kids cross busy Third Avenue and because building schools there might have a negative impact on the area’s struggling manufacturing industry, according to Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer.

“I don’t think we are quite so interested in that,” said Laufer. “Remember, we want to preserve our industrial area, and I don’t think crossing under the expressway for younger students is a great idea. I think for general education we’re concentrating within residential districts.”

Officials are still considering the landmarked 68th Precinct Station House on Fourth Avenue, though they would likely have to demolish the building.

The city is planning to build a 676-seat school on the waterfront side of Third Avenue at 59th Street using a series of mostly empty lots that it obtained through eminent domain earlier this year — though the school would serve the Bay Ridge-to-Bensonhurst 20th School District rather than Sunset Park’s 15th school district.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.