Seniors living at a Pelham Bay housing development have received assurances that a its backyard garden will not be taken away to expand the neighboring public school.
On January 19 the Middletown Plaza Resident Council, Inc. drafted a petition to prevent their park from being sold by New York City Housing Authority to the Department of Education to build an annex to P.S.71.
The petition, containing 86 signatures from senior residents, opposed an effort started last year by the Pelham Bay Taxpayers and Civic Association that asked for the parcel to be transferred to the School Construction Authority to construct a $30 million 270-seat early learning facility.
The civic association opposed SCA’s initial proposal to build the annex at Continental Avenue, East 197th Street and Hutchinson River Parkway Road and suggested the senior site as an alternative.
According to Rev. Marilyn Oliver, Middletown Plaza Resident Council president, Middletown Plaza sent their petition to their local elected officials.
NYCHA issued a response to residents and DOE that they are not interested in selling the park for a school annex, according to Rev. Oliver.
Completed on August 31, 1973, Middletown Plaza’s 1.13 acre site houses a tranquil park area outfitted with several benches surrounded by grass, maple trees and evergreens.
Rev. Oliver and Middletown Plaza residents said the park has been there since the apartment’s construction and is used for a variety of recreational activities.
“A lot of seniors here are not in the best of health and cannot travel far to see their families,” shared Rev. Oliver. “This park gives them a place where they can meet with their relatives especially during our annual family picnics.”
“There’s very little green space there to begin with and by taking that away from the seniors living at Middletown Plaza it would negatively impact their health,” said Bob Beider, Community Board 10 Youth Services and Educational Committee chairman.
At Wednesday, March 16’s CB 10 general board meeting, it was explained that SCA is still eyeing the Continental Avenue site for the proposed annex.
A DOE spokeswoman confirmed this, stating the department has carefully explored several options and finalized a proposal for an early childhood site that will continue to address the needs of this community.
The proposed Continental Avenue site, formerly used as a parking lot for the defunct Pelham Bay General Hospital, has raised concerns because of its size, its proximity to the Pelham Grand supportive housing complex and the Hutchinson River Parkway 3E exit, parking issues and traffic safety in the local area.
CB 10 voted its disapproval to this SCA-proposed P.S. 71 annex at last November’s meeting and the board mailed SCA a letter expressing their concerns and suggestions for improving the current proposal.
CB 10’s decision was based on the belief the proposed annex wasn’t large enough to accommodate the projected increase in the student population by the year 2018, the high traffic volume near the planned facility and the site placing enormous pressure on the surrounding community.
“NYCHA told us from the start that they weren’t interested in selling the (Middletown Plaza) park, but we remained hopeful that they might have reconsidered moving the facility to that location instead of its current one,” said Michele Torrioni, Pelham Bay Taxpayers Association president. “We still feel the Continental Avenue site is not a good spot for pre-k and kindergarten students and overall the facility there will not alleviate P.S. 71’s overcrowding.”
A second petition that is being circulated demands the city relocate the annex to the Pelham Grand on Pelham Parkway South and St. Paul Avenue, however that property is currenly being used for supportive housing.