A new public school is in the works for District 20.
The new school, which Councilmember Justin Brannan teases will have approximately 350 seats and, most likely accommodate students in grades K-5, is slated to be built on the former site of St. Rosalia Church, 6301 14th Avenue.
St. Rosalia, a Dyker Heights institution which was founded in 1902 as an Italian national parish, was demolished earlier this year. Its sale, first announced last spring via a decree from the Diocese and first reported by this paper, was met with disappointment from local residents.
However, news of an additional learning center in one of the city’s notoriously overcrowded school districts has excited many.
“As a Bensonhurst native, it’s heartbreaking to see this church gone. Sadly, the diocese was determined to sell this property no matter what was said or done,” said local resident and former head of the Community Education Council for District 20 Laurie Windsor. “This being the case, it’s more beneficial to build a school rather than more ‘Fedder’ condos that have been taking over our neighborhood. Seats are sorely needed in District 20, so any and all new schools will help.”
“Just about every school in District 20 is at least 130 percent over capacity,” Brannan told this paper, adding that, despite this, District 20 has continually been voted and ranked among the best school districts across the five boroughs.
However, he said, something must be done to alleviate the congestion.
“That’s why, during my campaign last year, I made a promise to have at least one new public school built over the next four years. Now, just about 10 months into my first term, I’m proud to announce that’s happening,” he said, adding that he and the Department of Education (DOE) – for which he once worked – are also considering a number of other potential sites for the future.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “Having worked inside the Department of Education, I know how to cut through red tape and get things done. It’s not brain surgery. We need more seats so we need to build more schools.”
However, with congestion in mind, some residents assert that, with at least four schools in a four-block radius – among them, I.S. 187 Christa McAuliffe and AHRC, a special needs school – this will only lead to a different kind of overcrowding.
“Building a school where [there] is already an overpopulation is not too wise,” contended one local resident in a Facebook group aimed at protecting the coveted Angel Guardian Home, another long-standing Dyker institution facing a controversial fate.
Still, Brannan maintained, the new school is a priority.
“The last thing most people want to see is a church torn down. I’m aware of St. Rosalia’s cultural significance especially among Italian immigrants. These things are never easy. Unfortunately, the Brooklyn Diocese decided to close the church and put the land up for sale,” he said. “And frankly, if the church has to close, I’d rather have it replaced by much-needed public school seats than another luxury condo we can’t afford to live in.”
The 21,000-square-foot lot is zoned M1-1, the lowest density manufacturing district, which permits light manufacturing as well as most business and retail uses and houses of worship.
The Department of City Planning’s Zoning Handbook identifies the site’s FAR as a relatively low 1.0, with FAR being a measurement that reflects the ratio between the total floor area of the building and the square footage of the lot on which it is built.
Reps for Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, whose district the new site is in, did not immediately return this paper’s request for comment. Neither did the DOE.