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Schooled: Developer offers classroom seats in mixed-use proposal

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Developers want to include a school in their plan to build a massive mixed-use complex in Sunset Park.

A consortium of investors aim to build a shopping mall, hotel, two residential towers, and an office building on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 62nd Street, and the architect said his clients are willing to set aside space for a public school, architect Raymond Chan told Community Board 10’s Zoning and Land Use Committee on Nov. 5.

Board members said the additional desks would be a boon for the crowded school district.

“We’ve been looking for school sites desperately,” said CB10 Education Committee chair Bob Hudock. “They are very needed, especially in that neighborho­od.”

A majority of District 20’s 37 public elementary schools are over-capacity, he said. And four of the most overcrowded schools — where enrollment is at least 150 percent capacity — are clustered within a mile of the proposed development site, Department of Education data shows.

The site is about the size of three football fields, and Chan’s tower plan would create 1.1 million square feet of floor area — a bit less than half the space in the Empire State Building — a mall, 150 hotel rooms, 350 apartments, and office space.

Chan envisions setting aside more than a football-field-sized chunk of that area for a specialized school, he said.

“We want a high-tech elementary school there,” Chan said.

A Department of Education spokesman declined to comment on the plan, saying the city does not negotiate in public.

Chan said the Schools Construction Authority is sharing its building requirements with his office, but declined to elaborate further.

The plan hinges on city approval.

The lot is zoned for manufacturing, and the city gave the site’s previous owner a variance to build an 11-story apartment buidling over a Home Depot in 2007. But Chan’s plans far exceed the current variance, and he would need to go through a lengthy public review process for a new, expanded variance before breaking ground.

But Chan is asking the city to renew the current variance, because he’ll have a tougher time securing the larger variance he needs if the existing one lapses, his attorneys said.

The Department of City Planning and the Council have the final say on whether to issue variances, and the community board only plays an advisory role, but Chan appeared before the Land Use Committee to keep lines of communication open, he said.

Committee members liked the school proposal but were cautious, noting that developers often dangle gifts in front of the community only to snap them away after the city issues a variance.

“It’s not a commitment, it’s just an idea,” said committee member Joanne Seminara.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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