Assemblymember Francisco P. Moya, Representative Joseph Crowley, State Senator Jose Peralta, and members of Community Board 4 stood outside of P.S. 16’s classroom trailers to call for an immediate response to the district’s overcrowded schools, urging the City to downgrade South Corona’s existing zoning code.
South Corona’s public schools demonstrate the consequences of development outpacing a neighborhood’s ability to absorb the relevant population surge. PS. 16 P.S. 19, and P.S. 28, for example, are currently at 144% 140% 178% capacity, respectively. Each time a one or two-family home is demolished to make way for a multiple family dwelling, as zoning currently allows, an influx of students are assigned to schools that haven’t the space to accommodate them.
The legislators pointed towards P.S. 16’s school trailers, known as Transportable Classroom Units (TCU), as an example of how the unsustainable population growth in the area was affecting students’ quality of education. Separated from the street by only a wire fence, prone for heating and A/C failures, and poorly insulated, the trailers create unsafe and unsuitable conditions for students and are often used in perpetuity.
According to the U.S. Census, after the Rockaways, Corona had the steepest climb in population within Queens – a 3.3% increase. Downzoning South Corona from R5(A)(B) or R6(B) to a lower designation would limit density and the trend of replacing homes with high-rise buildings. Not only are schools over-capacity, but even the 7 line which services the area, as per the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s own numbers, is at capacity and subject to dangerous overcrowding.
“Smart development requires building in a way that is consistent with the neighborhood that’s being developed. In South Corona, we see the consequences of letting too much happen to soon. The neighborhood can’t absorb the burgeoning population and students end up suffering for it. Our schools are well over-capacity, forcing students to cram into unsafe trailers that are frigid in the winter and microwaves in the summer. The 7 train servicing the area is also dangerously crowded. Downzoning South Corona would alleviate some of the pressure these schools face and buy time for Corona’s infrastructure to begin catching up to where it needs to be. We are calling on the City to immediately reassess the neighborhood’s zoning so that, before we add any more students to our schools, we can find seats for students that already don’t have one,” said Assemblymember Francisco P. Moya.
“It is irresponsible, and unfair to the families that live in our communities, to allow for the overdevelopment of our neighborhoods without first investing in our infrastructure and ensuring we’re able to provide the services they need and deserve. That lack of fairness is all the more evident by the conditions under which many of the children in South Corona are forced to learn in. Making sure they’re put in a position to succeed has to be our number one priority and that means guaranteeing an adequate learning environment for every child. As we continue to work to alleviate our overcrowded schools, I join Assemblyman Moya, Senator Peralta and local residents in this effort to ensure the responsible growth of our community,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx).
“The City needs to balance development in the Borough of Queens with an equal focus on using zoning as a tool to preserve the bedroom communities which make up an important part of our borough’s housing stock. Clearly this community seeks such a balance and their concerns should be addressed,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
“There is a clear need to look at all possible ways to alleviate the chronic school overcrowding that has been affecting our district for years and decades. Not far from here, for example, P.S. 143, built for 900 students, had an enrollment of 1,284 schoolchildren for the year 2008-09, jumping to 1,782 for the academic year 2012-13. Construction of new schools has not kept up with the growing population, and this is why it is important the City considers downgrading the current zoning codes in the area in an effort to keep one and two family homes, which have been replaced with multi-family, multi-dwelling residences, thus increasing the number of students. I am committed to work so all children have access to a quality education, and over-capacity classrooms and trailers are an impediment to achieve this goal. I am glad to join Assemblymember Moya and Member of Congress Crowley calling on the City to downzone the South Corona area, keeping the character of the neighborhood and helping reduce school overcrowding,” said State Senator Jose Peralta (D- East Elmhurst).
“We’re seeing overdevelopment at an alarming rate. The fact is that large sections of Corona were designed as a tightly woven network of 1-2 family houses whose streets are far too narrow, and simply not prepared to handle such an influx of population such a short amount of time,” said Christian Cassagnol, District Manager, of Queens Community Board 4.