2001-06-27 / Editorials

No To P.S. 499 At Queens College

No To P.S. 499 At Queens College

By Dr. Ronald I. Rothenberg

I feel it is a major mistake to build P.S. 499 (also known as the Queens College School for Math, Science, and Technology) on the campus of Queens College Many other faculty and staff members to whom I have spoken agree with this viewpoint. Currently, P.S. 499 is planned for approximately 530 students ranging from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, and in the age range from approximately 4 to 14 years of age. The location will be in a small area in the northwest part of the campus, adjacent to Reeves Avenue

Several hearings on the subject of this public school were held by Community Board 8, most recently on April 24, 2001. Essentially, every community leader for regions near Queens College has opposed locating P.S. 499 on the Queens College campus. Several of these are Pat Dolan (Kew Garden Hills Homeowners Civic Association), Arthur Alex (Kew Gardens Hills North Homeowners Association), and David Kulick (Flushing Civic Association). I know of no community leader who supports the idea.

Let me deal with the problems of having P.S. 499 located on the Queens College campus. First of all, we just don’t have the space for another major building on this already crowded campus. Another major building on this campus will have a devastating aesthetic and environmental effect on the campus. We have an attractive campus as of now. Another big building will ruin that. But probably as important is the fact that we currently have a very congested campus, one on which it is very difficult to park at certain times of the day and night from Monday to Thursday. I believe we have effectively reached our reasonable spatial limits, with the completion of Townsend Harris H. S. and the Aaron Copland School of Music in recent years.

It is significant that the total student head count dropped from 17,112 in fall 1995 to 15,071 in fall 2000, a massive decrease of 11.9 percent. This was during the tenure of former President [Alan] Sessoms, who was a primary sponsor of restrictive admissions policies. Those policies, in concert with some educationally dubious attitudes towards CUNY by the mayor and governor, led to the decline in number of students. The current intent of the Queens College administration is to increase student enrollment. Also aiding the probable increase in the near future are the recent population growths of both New York City and Queens County. So if the college is congested now, imagine what it will be like when we once again have a likely student head count in excess of 17,000. And that’s without a new building on campus for P.S. 499.

The plan is to have 530 students spread out over 10 grades, from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. In addition, there will be an estimated 80 employed personnel, consisting of teachers, administrators, custodians, secretaries, security guards, etc.

Most of the students, who will come from all seven school districts in Queens, will be transported by bus to and from Queens College. Now, I must tell you that there is not enough room available for an estimated 15 to 25 buses (figuring 10 to 20 students per bus—remember the students come from all over Queens) either on campus or on the adjacent streets. Consider the problem that will arise at 3 p.m. when P.S. 499 dismisses classes. Where will some 20 buses line up? It can’t be on campus—no room there—and it certainly can’t be in the adjoining streets since there is no room there either. Also, what about parking places for some 50 to 70 estimated personnel of P.S. 499? We don’t have adequate parking places on campus now. The small area allocated for P.S. 499 will barely be capable of holding a school for some 600 individuals (students, and staff), let alone a parking field for more than a few cars.

I’ll admit that the concept of having a public school for math, science, and technology for students in the pre-K to eighth grade range is an interesting one. But, it does not belong on the Queens College campus.

Dr. Ronald I. Rothenberg is a member of the Mathematics Department and of the Academic Senate at Queens College.

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