Heights School parents, neighbors challenge temporary parking lot

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The Roslyn school district is installing a temporary parking lot at the Heights School. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

Cars lined the streets Friday morning around Heights School in Roslyn Heights after residents complained the night before about a new temporary parking lot on the school’s fields.

During a Roslyn Board of Education meeting Thursday, two Heights School parents and a school neighbor said they were surprised and unhappy about the new temporary parking lot on Carlyle Place.

“I, like Stephen [Rhine] and many of the people around the school, were dismayed and concerned and honestly very upset about the parking lot put in Labor Day weekend without any notification after four years ago, we were promised there would be no lot there,” Roslyn Heights resident Paula Lester said.

The school’s existing parking lot, also on Carlyle Place, is still under construction from summer work, and the temporary lot was not yet open for parking as of Friday. The lot covers about 20 percent of the grass adjacent to the school playground.

“The plans for the Heights School have been online for some time,” Board President Meryl Waxman Ben-Levy said. “There have had to be some recent adjustments due to emergent circumstances that had to be dealt with immediately to open the school.”

The summer work was part of the district’s $41.3 million capital plan project approved in 2014.

The district’s statement on the Heights School website reads: “Because work is being done in the Carlyle Place parking lot area, a small temporary parking area has been created just south of the building on part of the playing fields, in order to keep excess parking off the street. This parking area will be surfaced to keep it from getting muddy, but it is not permanent; when construction is completed it will be removed and the playing fields will be restored to their previous condition.”

When Rhine asked for clarification about how temporary the lot would be, what it would be covered with and why the lot was suddenly installed, Ben-Levy and Superintendent Allison Brown directed his concerns to Director of Facilities Kevin Carpenter.

Carpenter spoke privately with Rhine, Lester and Roslyn Heights resident Victoria Dee after the meeting, but Rhine and Dee both said their concerns were not satisfied.

After the meeting, Rhine said he asked Carpenter if the lot would be gravel, and he said Carpenter was unsure but that it could be asphalt.

Ben-Levy said the school follows building codes set by the New York State Department of Education, not any local municipality, but could not specify how the department defines “temporary.” 

The Town of North Hempstead’s building codes says a “temporary structure” is for a maximum of six months and can be renewed for an additional six months.

Requests to the department for clarification were not returned.

“I was verbally told 18 months is temporary. That’s a long time,” Lester, who lives on Carlyle Place, said. “Doing it over Labor Day weekend appears underhanded and sneaky and, to tell you the truth, no one’s parked in it yet. The parking on the street has been completely fine.”

The temporary lot is approximately 5,000 square feet and is currently a dirt lot enclosed by temporary construction fencing anchored with sandbags.

“My concern is the children. That’s my first concern,” Dee said. “That fence is not good enough. Anybody steps on the gas by mistake, they’re going right into that field. It’s not safe for the kids.”

After the meeting, Roslyn school district spokesperson Barry Edelson emailed Monday a statement on behalf of the district.

“Upon review, the district will be removing the temporary parking area that was installed on part of the Heights playing fields and returning the area to grass,” the statement read. “The parking area was intended to reduce parking congestion on the streets near and about the school during the period of building and site construction, which will last a year or more. Since it was built with only the thought of helping our neighbors, we truly regret that it raised more concerns than it allayed.

“While our flexibility is limited in regard to most aspects of the capital improvement plan, we are able to make this change for the consideration of all concerned. There will be additional congestion during construction and we appreciate the cooperation and patience of residents.”

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