A Bay Ridge private school says it wants to make the neighborhood — and the country — safer by taking over a portion of a troublesome dead end street near an entrance to its football field, but neighbors say there is nothing dangerous about the area and that the school is simply making a land grab that would take valuable parking spaces away from them.
Poly Prep Country Day School is asking the city to let it lease a 185-foot section of Battery Avenue between Fort Hill Place and the Fort Hamilton Army Base, claiming it is a den of drug dealing, prostitution, and drinking that cannot be contained by police. The school would close off the area with a chain-link fence and gate, moving up the dead-end and taking away about 10 parking spots.
“We’re doing this because we’re good neighbors,” said Malcolm Farley, director of communications for the school, who added that drug dealing so close to the fort is a threat to national security because dealers could be selling dope to soldiers. “We want to protect the safety and security of Fort Hamilton, our kids, and our neighbors.”
But neighbors say the area is safe, and a police source we spoke to could not confirm the number of complaints about the street, but denied that prostitution was taking place there.
“We definitely received complaints about the location, but there was nothing that was justified as ongoing prostitution,” the source said.
So neighbors think that blocking off the street is just a ploy to privatize a public road and take over sorely needed parking spots so buses carrying visiting football teams have a convenient place to park on game days.
“They’re going to block the streets so that visiting cars and buses can park,” said Elaine O’Rourke, who lives on the block.
School officials admitted that the block has been used by visiting football teams, but that’s not the reason Poly wants the land.
“They do park buses back there four or five times in the football season and yes, we would continue to look to do so,” said Rutuelo. “But we are not doing this for additional parking.”
Few cars were parked on the street when we stopped by last Wednesday, as every house on the block has off-street parking.
But neighbors said that every home had at least two cars, and finding parking at night was difficult.
“People on the block park here at night,” said Joan MacGregor, who lives one house away from the site of the would-be fence. “It’s hard to get a spot already.”
The 157-year-old school, which has about 800 students from grades five through 12, is located on the edge of the Dyker Heights Golf Course and abuts Fort Hamilton, features a bucolic campus with ponds and geese. Poly Prep has a lower school in Park Slope near Prospect Park.
School officials are meeting at a hearing on Wednesday at Community Board 10 — but some board members are skeptical of the plan.
“My impression is that they feel they’re entitled to take over a public street because they’re rich,” said CB10 member Bob Hudock.