Wednesday, March 14, 2012

City Negotiating To Buy Private School Yard To Expand Travers Park


A long-anticipated deal to acquire new park land in Jackson Heights is imminent, officials close to the talks told the Daily News.

The city has been negotiating with the Garden School for more than a year to buy the private school’s roughly 29,000-square-foot yard to expand Travers Park.

The park is one of the few open spaces in the congested area.

“I remain optimistic that we can come to a conclusion soon — one that will benefit the community and the Garden School,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights). “Everything is looking positive.”

The cash-strapped private school threatened to sell the rare parcel of open space in the congested neighborhood to a developer if the city didn’t cough up millions quickly.

That prompted community residents to offer to loan the nursery-through-12th-grade institution more than $250,000 until the city’s check cleared.

Parents had threatened to pull their kids out of the school if a deal with the city wasn’t reached.

Arthur Gruen, president of the school’s Board of Trustees, said negotiations are going well and that the school and the city are working out the details.

“We’re very close to a deal,” he said. “The deal has been agreed upon in principle a long time ago, but working out the language is a taking a long time.”

Joshua Laird, an assistant commissioner at the city Parks Department, said this has been a complicated multi-million dollar agreement to reach.

It involves a provision to allow Garden to use the yard exclusively during school hours, he said.

The land would be open to the public after 4 p.m. on weekdays, on weekends and in the summer.

It also involves a non-city loan to tide the school over until the city hands over a check, he said.

Before money changes hands, the property must first undergo a land-use review, which is expected to take about a year.

Residents hope to connect the yard to Travers Park by turning 78th St. into a permanent pedestrian plaza joining the properties. The street is closed to traffic during several summer months.

Local activist Will Sweeney said the neighborhood needs more park land because it is undergoing a baby boom and an influx of new immigrants.

“Jackson Heights has one of the worst ratios of persons to open space acreage in the city,” Sweeney said. And this is “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand open space.”

Read More:

New York Daily News - March 13, 2012 - By Clare Trapasso

A Walk In The Park - Setember 15, 2011

A Walk In The Park - November 28, 2010

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