School construction on Green Church site to begin soon

Construction could start as soon as this May on the new school at the site of the Green Church.

Currently, the School Construction Authority (SCA) is “getting it ready,” noted Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Education (DOE), who told this paper that the design phase of the project – which will result in a new 680-seat elementary school for District 20 – is now underway.

Next-door neighbor Dorcas Kimball said she didn’t know exactly what was being done at the site, but there were “some excavations here and there, and some drilling.

“People have been working there for several days,” she added.

P.S. 331, as the school will be known, is projected to be completed in 2013, said Feinberg, and the goal is to have it open in time for the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, to help relieve overcrowding in School District 20, which includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and portions of Bensonhurst, Sunset Park and Boro Park.

The property, at the corner of Fourth and Ovington Avenues, was acquired by the SCA last year, Feinberg recalled, after the church had already been demolished at the behest of Abe Betesh of Abeco Realty, the developer who was originally supposed to buy the site from the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church.

The demolition of the church had been long fought by local activists; once the destruction of the lovely old building was a fait accompli, however, those who had opposed the razing of the church expressed support for the construction of a school at the site, where Betesh had initially planned to build a multi-story condominium building.

“A school is better than a hole in the ground,” preservationist Victoria Hofmo, the founder of the Bay Ridge Conservancy, and a member of the Committee to Save the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, had remarked when the idea of building a school at the site was first broached.

Local preservationists were particularly pleased that the SCA decided to reference the beloved sanctuary in their design for the school, referencing the church’s signature clock tower in the structure, and actually incorporating the sanctuary’s rose window into the new building.

“They don’t want it to look churchy,” Ron Gross,a Community Board 10 member, had remarked some months back, “but they want to be respectful of what came before.”

The school at the Green Church site represents the fulfillment of a promise made several years back, when DOE included a whopping 5,119 seats for District 20 in its 2005-2009 capital plan. Until relatively recently, the district still had about 2,000 seats to go to fulfill the commitment made years earlier.