‘Green’ school moves forward

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A city plan to build an elementary school at the site of Bay Ridge’s now-demolished “Green Church” advanced last week, thanks to a nearly unanimous vote by Community Board 10.

The Jan. 26 vote backed the city’s plan for a 680-seat primary school in a new four- or five-story building that would rise from the rubble of the emerald-hued Bay Ridge United Methodist Church at the corner of Ovington and Fourth Avenues.

The church’s congregation tore down its verdant house of worship in October to make room for a smaller, easier to maintain church funded by pending $9.75-million sale of its land.

Developer Abe Betesh initially said he would construct 72 condominiums on the site, but later changed his mind, hawking the site as perfect for a school.

The city can not formally acquire the land from Betesh until the site goes through a public-review process that includes a traffic study and a signoff by the City Council and the Department of City Planning.

The School Construction Authority said it wants to gain approval for the school so it can be included in the agency’s current five-year budget, which must be finalized by June 30.

“Bay Ridge is one of the neediest school districts for seats — there’s just not enough seats available,” the School Construction Authority’s community relations manager Fred Maley said during the meeting.

Maley said the agency is currently eyeballing another school site on Fourth Avenue between 88th and 89th streets, and is considering an annex for PS 69 on 62nd Street between Fort Hamilton Parkway and Ninth Avenue.

Despite the lopsided vote, one critic complained that school buses and double-parked cars might turn the narrow street into an impasse, while others questioned the need for a new school at all.

“I don’t think we should be expending funds for a building that destroyed something so dear to the community,” said board member Bob Cassara. “We’re voting to support increased taxes and the destruction of a landmark.”

Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) said he supports the Green Church school plan because of overcrowding at other schools. He said he was also concerned that Betesh might do nothing with the property until the housing market rebounds.

“He cannot guarantee me that he can put up something at that site,” Gentile said. “We might be faced with the prospect of having a vacant lot at that corner for two or three years until the economy comes around.”

That said, the school would not open until September, 2013.

Updated 5:10 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Stund from Bay Ridge says:
“I don’t think we should be expending funds for a building that destroyed something so dear to the community,” said board member Bob Cassara. “We’re voting to support increased taxes and the destruction of a landmark.”

That's INSANE.

Does this guy -- out of pure spite and grudgery
- want to leave a great big gaping hole on that site? [BR already has a "spite house" on 87th St. Do we need a "spite hole," too?]
- want to drive that church out of Bay Ridge ... since it obviously can't rebuild without an acquirer-builder's help?

Is he aware that Bay Ridge really IS "is one of the neediest school districts for seats" ?

Is he trying to return BR to its bucolic-farm days, or keep out families with kids?

Or does he have undisclosed ideas re: who/what should get the lot, tax money and school cash?
Jan. 29, 2009, 5:56 am
Stund from Bay Ridge says:
Oh, wait -

I just remembered that Cassara wanted the City to acquire Catholic-school property and use it for this public school.

The picture gets clearer ...
Jan. 29, 2009, 6:14 am
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
To Stund:

I definately do not want a big hole on the site, nor do I want the city to buy catholic schools.

That said, I still can see the logic in what Cassara said. The city is unintentionally making the destruction of landmarks profitable for developers. That's a really bad idea. Now that the church is gone, I recognize that nothing can be done but to develop the site, but there should be some kind of learning experience extracted from this. Namely that more has to be done to protect historic buildings - and this especially true in Bay Ridge which has been ransacked (and continues to be) by developers who tear down the beautiful structures of the neighborhood to replace them with poorly made (and ugly) garbage.

In the end the city will spend a lot of money to buy and develop the site, money which could have gone to preserving the church and building the school at an alternate site.
Feb. 3, 2009, 11:27 am
Alex from Bay Ridge says:
To Michael: I disagree regarding Cassara's logic.

It's irrational to say that the city's buy would support "destruction of a landmark": the city was nowhere in the picture when that place was sold and vaporized; not buying the lot won't bring back the old church; and it's bizarre to want to stick us all with an empty dump of a lot, out of spite for someone else.

Also - Cassara griped about "expending funds for a building that destroyed something so dear to the community." That was a bad misspeak, since
-- Everybody knows that the Methodist people want to rebuild here, which can happen ONLY if somebody buys the site (since whoever does must build a new church).
With the current rotten economy: If the city didn't buy the lot, the church could wait forever 'til Betesh found a buyer and 'til a new plan got OK'd ... and the wait could hurt (kill, even) the church.
-- Cassara didn't say he opposed rewarding the developer (Betesh): He said he opposed "expending funds FOR A BUILDING THAT DESTROYED something" (etc.).
What building is that? The old church wasn't destroyed "for" a public school, and the city isn't paying Betesh to build condos!
But: The church people DID sell to Betesh "for a building" (a new church), and to make some operating & charity $.

So whether he meant it or not - "for a building" implied that the church should be punished, or didn't deserve to be rebuilt.
This is a bad thing for a civic rep to say, esp. if he (presumably) doesn't belong to that church, and esp. when - as Stund said - a non-buy could "drive that church out" of B.R. It looks worse if he also wanted another religious sect to "benefit" instead (by urging the city to buy a Catholic school).
I CANNOT believe that he meant this, and assume it was just blooper-speak, but it's still not reasonable.
Feb. 4, 2009, 4:27 am

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