District 20 arts school to open on 59th Street

City also eyeing Bay Ridge for site of youth center

A new elementary/middle school specializing in arts education will be built in District 20, officials revealed at a town hall sponsored by state Sen. Andrew Gounardes on Thursday.

District 20 Superintendent Karina Costantino told parents at the town hall that the new school will be located on 59th Street between Second and Third avenues in Sunset Park and will serve as a school for the arts “rivaling Mark Twain,” a reference to the famed Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted and Talented in Coney Island in District 21.

There is no word on when the new school will open.

Costantino’s comment came in response to a question from the audience about the possibility of building a specialized high school somewhere in Southern Brooklyn.

Gounardes noted that there are only 10 specialized high schools in the entire city. The elite schools include Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene. Southern Brooklyn would be a good spot for an elite high school, according to Gounardes, who said one-quarter of the students currently enrolled in the city’s specialized high schools hail from middle schools in District 20.

The district includes 39 elementary and middle schools in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, as well as parts of Bensonhurst, Sunset Park, Borough Park and Flatbush.

Gounardes said that while it would be great to get a new high school in Southern Brooklyn, District 20 is really in need of a new middle school. “Our highest priority, in terms of overcrowding, is our middle schools,” he said.

The problem with constructing any new school in the Southern Brooklyn, according to Gounardes, is that the area has little vacant land on which to build. “There is no new development,” he said.

Costantino asked parents in the audience to help the district by being on the lookout for any possible sites for new schools. “Call my office,” she said, adding that she would convey the information to the Department of Education’s real estate office, which would check out the sites.

The town hall, which took place at McKinley Intermediate School on Fort Hamilton Parkway, was billed as an event for parents to learn about education and street safety issues. Gounardes, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge and several other Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, invited police, fire, transportation and health officials to the forum.

Educational topics dominated the evening’s conversation.

It was learned at the town hall that an arts school might not be the only new youth-oriented facility coming to the area.

Jonathan Yedin, a top aide to Democratic Councilmember Justin Brannan, revealed that the lawmaker is working with the city to scout for a possible site for a youth/community center in Bay Ridge.

One possible site is the former Chase Bank on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 86th Street. The now-empty space is located on the first floor of a building that also houses a municipal garage. The storefront next door is also empty. It formerly housed a greeting card store.

“This is all very preliminary,” Yedin said, adding that the city isn’t close to making plans for the site.

Another possible site, the former Community Board 10 office on the corner of Gatling Place and 86th Street, is problematic, Yedin said, because it’s located next to a Gowanus Expressway exit.

Brannan is serious about finding a location, Yedin said. “It’s definitely on our radar,” he said.

Gounardes said he fully supports the effort. “There is a need for a youth center in Southern Brooklyn,” he said.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and District 20 Superintendent Karina Costantino talked educational issues at the town hall. ebrooklyn media/Photo by Paula Katinas

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