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.
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.