Locals have started playing the name game with a new public elementary school set to open in Van Nest.
Slated to open in fall 2015 in the former St. Dominic School building on White Plains Road, P.S. 311 is already garnering attention from those who would like to christen it, although the local Community Education Council has not yet begun the naming process.
Councilman James Vacca sent a letter dated December 15 to the CEC asking that the school be named after his predecessor, recently deceased Councilwoman Madeline Provezano.
“Madeline was a pillar of the community,” the letter reads. “She successfully allocated millions of dollars to local schools and youth programs and dedicated her life to public service.”
Soon after, a letter was sent to the councilman arguing that the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance had already voted in November to propose naming the school after late Van Nest resident Benjamin Nolan, and alleged that the councilwoman had neglected the neighborhood during her tenure.
Nolan was at one time president of the Van Nest Community Association, commander of the Van Nest branch of the American Legion and founder and president of the Van Nest Little League, in addition to serving neighborhood churches with pro-bono legal representation.
But Nolan’s son, Robert, said that the inflammatory letter was written by one person and does not represent his feelings nor the rest of the neighborhood alliance’s, who in the wake of Provezano’s death decided to support Vacca’s pitch to name the school after her.
The alliance and Vacca have agreed the gymnasium of the school should be named after Nolan, who also has a stretch of Williamsbridge Road named in his honor.
“Everybody’s on board that the school be named after Madeline,” said Nolan. “I can’t say enough about her.”
But despite all the discussion, the process to name the school has not formally begun.
The school name will be chosen by Community Education Council 11, who will solicit nominations from community groups and locals starting in February, said CEC president Pamela Johnson.
A CEC committee will be formed to discuss the potential names before coming before the full board for a vote.
In order to name the school after a person, the council requires a letter from the deceased’s family, and statements of support from local officials and community boards or associations do influence the decision.
But right now, the playing field for potential names is wide open.
“We welcome suggestions from all,” said Johnson.