Community Board 14 held their monthly meeting this past Monday, January 14. On the agenda were a number of items, the most contentious being a variance to permit the construction of a pre-K school and boarding facility for children with physical handicaps.
The Brooklyn School for Medically Fragile Children would be built at 570 East 21st Street, between Ditmas and Dorchester (address pictured above as is is now). The building would extend through the block with the rear of the building on two adjacent lots on Ocean Avenue, one of which has been vacant for a while. There would not be an entrance on Ocean.
Chairman Alvin M. Berk heard arguments on both sides of the issue before holding a vote. Those opposed to the variance were concerned about both the size and architecture of the building, as well as potential traffic problems on East 21st Street.
Carmen Cerio Belle, the Second Vice Chair, who voted no on the variance, stated concern about whether vehicles delivering food, or vans for maintenance personnel, would create congestion on East 21st Street even if the buses did not. Gail L. Smith, the Third Vice Chair, also voted no for the same reasons.
“I’m concerned about safety,” said Smith, explaining her stance.
Board member Glenn Wolin, who voted yes, assured the board that excessive traffic on East 21st Street should not be an issue.
“The facility is going to have twenty-one kids on full-time ventilators,” he said during the meeting, assuring everyone that there would not be transport vehicles coming and going from the school too often.
Another board member who voted in favor of the school said that measures would be taken to avoid any buildup of traffic, noting that the building will feature a built-in driveway with a turntable roadway so that buses can enter and exit head first and avoid backing out or lining up on the street.
Board members for the variance also liked the idea that school would be near the Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center. It was even mentioned that doctors and staff at that facility would also be asked to work at the new facility.
However, other concerns arose, such as whether property value would decrease in the area if this building were to go up, and whether the building would adhere to the architectural style of the rest of the block.
Joel Harfenes, affiliated with the school as one of the founding board members, assured that the building would fit the architectural style of the community.
“We would like to point out,” Harfenes told us, “that a tremendous amount of effort was put in to have the building match the character of the block.”
Harfenes and Shabse Oberlander, on behalf of the board for the School for Medically Fragile Children, first appealed to Councilman Matthieu Eugene several months ago regarding the construction of building. Eugene, who could not attend the meeting on Monday, was represented Mike Racioppo, the Councilman’s new Chief of Staff.
“Councilman Eugene supports the School for Medically Fragile Children,” Racioppo told us. “There are not enough facilities like this in the area, and it would be beneficial for local students with special needs and their parents.”
He also stated that due to Councilman Eugene’s history as a medical doctor and former member of the City Council’s Health Committee, board members could be confidant in his support of an institution such as this.
“He has always used his position to serve the interests of those in need, especially children,” Racioppo said.
In the end, a large majority of board members agreed with Councilman Eugene’s office and voted yes on the variance. Now that the Community Board has voted to go ahead with the school, the necessary city approval is required to start construction.
Pictured above: Joel Harfenes, Brooklyn School for Medically Fragile Children, with Mathieu Eugene’s Chief of Staff Mike Racioppo
Top image of 570 E 21st via Google Maps