Some residents questioned the need for a 97-stall parking lot to be added for North High School students at a school board meeting on Wednesday night, suggesting that there could be better use for the space and that people weren’t properly notified.
One of those residents was Frederick Shaw, who argued that the bond issue unnecessarily transforms one of the soccer fields into a parking lot for certain people and doesn’t benefit the larger community. He also said that he had only just become aware of the item just recently.
“This is almost an entitlement for a small number of students as compared to the environmental destruction of your field there,” Shaw said.
The addition is an approximately $652,000 part of the $68.3 million revised bond voters approved back in May this year, which included a list of critical infrastructural repairs and educational building enhancements.
The new lower parking lot, considered an enhancement that would be at the corner of Beach and Polo Road, will cost $591,700 and reconfiguring the Polo Road corner parking lot with it will cost about $60,000.
School board members and administrators defended the decision to include the new parking lot. They said that the decision was carefully considered by a special committee, publicized to the community through various presentations, and said that the field was otherwise not being used.
“These were not things that were treated lightly or that went through quickly, but these were items that were of paramount importance to the population of those buildings,” Barbara Berkowitz, president of the Great Neck School Board, said.
Berkowitz added that the parking lot reflects a reality that many of their students drive, have jobs, and that village regulations regarding parking on the streets could not be changed.
Administrators also described it as a safety measure, especially during dismissal time when the pick-up area and a side lot become extra crowded.
“There’s inadequate parking at the facility,” said Jon Powell, assistant superintendent for business. “This is a needed construction.”
Annie Mendelson, a resident living on Beach Road and a trustee at the Village of Great Neck, contested that argument. She said that there are already 80 spots for students and that incentivizing 97 students to go on the road in and of itself could also be considered a safety issue.
Additionally, Mendelson said that while there were many presentations, affected neighbors were not specifically notified about the project, which is one item out of 61 pages in the board’s presentations and over 100 project recommendations.
“To find one item, it’s not so obvious to some people,” Mendelson said.
Mendelson added that it is “customary” for the village, while it is a separate municipality, to send out letters of notice to neighbors affected by projects and that the schools could have done that.
Trustee Rebecca Sassouni, now the chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee she sat on as a resident prior to her election, said that they did as much as they could.
“Mrs. Mendelson, what you refer to as ‘customary’ is actually, probably, legally required, so I think what we’re really talking about is what is a reasonable expectation,” Sassouni said. “And I do believe, I can say with a straight face, that we, to the best of my knowledge, did everything we could to get the information out to the community, as Mrs. Berkowitz just said.”
When asked about what could be done to change, Mendelson said that nothing had been done yet at this juncture, and students should be able to use the Parkwood facility’s parking lot instead.
Trustee Jeff Shi, the chairman of the Building Advisory Committee, told Mendelson that while the board hears her concerns and he has been on the field, they don’t see what else could be done.
“There’s definitely a need for it and, personally, I don’t feel there’s an alternative,” Shi said.