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Bay Ridgites pan Gowanus Expressway-adjacent pre-k plan

Double negative: Two panels pan Gowanus Expressway-adjacent pre-k plan on same night

P---ed off-ramp: Community Education Council 20 member Sheila Higginson is miffed the city wants to put a pre-Kindergarten next to this Gowanus Expressway off-ramp.
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Two separate community panels gave the city an F for its plan to build a pre-school next to a Gowanus Expressway off-ramp in Bay Ridge on Jan. 20.

The School Construction Authority wants to build a 108-seat, city-run pre-kindergarten on 86th Street and Gatling Place, but a community board committee and the local education council panned the plan during two meetings last Wednesday evening. Education honchos claim the Department of Transportation can quell the raging traffic coming off the expressway, but local leaders say drivers are too unpredictable, so the site ain’t right for Bay Ridge’s young and bright.

“When drivers are trying to get home or to work, they blow through the lights,” said District 20 Community Education Council member Sheila Higginson. “There’s no way to ensure it’s not a safety hazard for the kids.”

The intersection averaged one crash per month in the last four months, according to law enforcement figures. One resulted in injury and another as the result of speeding, records show.

Safety concerns aside, the site is gross — a litter-laden embankment between the city-owned building and the off-ramp is a den of rats, and workers will have to regularly battle the rodents to keep them at bay, according to another leader who worked in the building when Community Board 10’s office was there.

“We asked many years ago when we were there that they pave that grassy area to prevent the rat burrows there,” said district manager Josephine Beckmann.

And fumes from the highway would wreck young lungs – board members could not open the windows at the former headquarters, because so much noxious exhaust wafted up from the Gowanus Expressway, another critic said.

“I’m very familiar with the site, and it’s a nasty, nasty site,” said Bob Hudock, the board’s education committee chairman.

The School Construction Authority will conduct air quality studies in the coming months, and it could install filtration systems to keep smog out of the building, a representative told community board members.

But the school isn’t even necessary — some Ridge pre-Ks had empty desks this year, and the city plans to create more than 500 new district seats by the end of 2017, education council president Laurie Windsor said.

The city filed plans to build a pre-K on the same 92nd Street block as a notorious flophouse last month.

Mayor DeBlasio is aggressively working to make good on his campaign promise to provide pre-K to more than 73,000 city kids by the time school started last September.

Enrollment topped out at just over 65,000 this year — up from 20,000 in 2013, according to a September announcement.

The full community board rejected the plan at a Jan. 25 meeting.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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