Readers Write: Ed board ignores residents’ parking lot concerns

Readers Write: Ed board ignores residents’ parking lot concerns

Last night’s meeting of the Great Neck Board of Education demonstrated the unscrupulous nature of the school system’s administration.

They were curiously prepared for a non-agenda item that was raised by the community opposing the creation of a new student parking lot at the corner of Beach and Polo Roads adjacent to North High School.

An organized group of parents from the North High PTO were present (after being asked to attend by the PTO presidents in conjunction with school administration), and the president of the Board of Education, Barbara Berkowitz, had a clearly prepared statement that introduced the topic during open comment, despite the topic not being on the agenda.

One of the complaints of the group opposed is that the community surrounding the school, affected by this planned paving project, was never involved in the original discussions. Clearly, the school board and these parents planned to discuss this item at last night’s meeting.

Yet, once again they did not invite the surrounding community members, either by sending a notice to all the neighbors or at least inviting those who had spoken against the lot at previous meetings, whose names and addresses were in their possession.

 The Board of Education continues to contend that the building committees within Great Neck North spent four years coming up with a list of projects that they needed for the bond.

In those four years was it truly the responsibility of every resident to attend all Board of Education meetings?

Most residents do not attend. Most residents do not go to their own village BOT meetings, except when a specific issue is raised and publicized. The 450-plus resident voters who signed the anti-parking lot petition would have attended these meetings if we knew this topic was to be discussed.

Furthermore, the building committees which the Board of Education has now organized to include more diverse groups of residents (parents, non parents, people from different neighborhoods in Great Neck), did not include anyone beyond their school building when the parking lot bond item was discussed, so the few parents who wanted the lot got their say.

Despite Ms. Berkowitz’s statement that said they had numerous meetings about the bond, this bond was labeled as educational enhancements and infrastructure repair.

The residents who voted for it trusted that label and did not check every line item. Now, as these voters are discovering this one specific line item they are outraged.

Those who are anti-parking lot are not just residents in the local area but from all areas of Great Neck who question the financial stewardship of this board and the logic of their actions.

 The board and parents continue to raise spurious issues. The parents complain that their children need places to park because the parents cannot bring their children to school so the kids need to drive. What about the extensive bus system or walking or carpooling?

How is it that, with a larger student body, South High School is able to make do with far fewer spots than North?

There is also the possibility of having the students park at the Parkwood Pool upper lot, which is owned by the school district and is easily within walking distance of the high school?

It is grossly underutilized and has more than the 97 spots proposed to be added with the new lot. Using this lot would be efficient – no additional capital costs and no loss of greenspace.

It is a short distance to the school (it would provide a healthy walk), but far enough to make it unlikely that students would leave with their cars in the middle of the day for a break, one of the concerns of the North High School administration.

It seems like a win-win.

However, the naysayers amongst the parents and the school board worry about student safety crossing streets at Arrandale Avenue/Polo Road and Beach Road/Polo Road, since there are no crossing guards.

What about all of the ambulating students who currently cross at these corners without a crossing guard – there does not seem to be a problem. There is no crossing guard at Brokaw/Polo/Nirvana much of the morning (the guard who is briefly there can only control a small segment of the traffic on the North High side of the street).

They also ignore the fact that creating the parking lot could put 97 more inexperienced drivers on the road at the corner of Beach and Polo roads, paradoxically increasing the danger to all of the ambulating Middle and High schoolers.

The safety argument for this new lot is disingenuous and fallacious, fabricated to support a misguided plan that the school board is afraid to cancel.

 Finally, by building this lot, there is no guarantee that the students who don’t wish to be locked into the lot until dismissal will park there.

Those students may still choose, as some do, to park by Parkwood, or as one parent said, park by CVS/Mange Bene and move their cars after three hours so as not to get tickets.

If they can run back and forth to the parking lot, they can park once at Parkwood and not worry about tickets.

 What this entire experience teaches us is that the school board is a poor steward of the school district’s finances.

Despite their contention, we all want a good school district.

However, we need responsible spending. Responsibility means making financial sense, being educationally beneficial, and being environmentally sound. This planned parking lot meets none of these criteria.   

And the school board refuses to recognize this. This means that we, the public, need to scrutinize all proposed budgets, bond issues, etc. to make certain that all proposed expenditures are sound.

The parking lot was one of over 100 line items in the proposed bond, buried to make its detection less likely. What is the school board planning to include this year?

We need to ensure that this year’s, and all future year’s, budgets are responsible.

While undesirable, if the board is irresponsible in its requests, a budget should be voted down. And we should be truly selective about the board of ed members we vote for – they need to be responsive to the entire community, not just a select few.

Robert Mendelson

Great Neck

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