Rumors have been swirling since the close of Golden Gate Inn at the end of December, but Sheepshead Bites has confirmed the new use for the property – Brooklyn Amity School, a Turkish-owned private school currently located on Coney Island Avenue.
The deed transfers hit the net, and Amity unveiled a set of renderings of the new school on their website. It appears they’ll be using the established structure – with a few touch ups – while Department of Buildings records show that interior walls are being torn down to make space for classrooms. Amity’s website notes that classes will begin in the new location this year.
Amity School was founded in 1999 by Turkish businessmen, but that doesn’t mean its limited to students of Turkish background. They’re listed as a non-sectarian K-12 school on GreaterSchools.org, with a current student body of around 222 kids. With the larger location in the former Golden Gate Inn (3867 Shore Parkway), they’ll likely be growing that number.
Paranoia seems to have gripped the neighborhood after the hotel’s closing was announced, with rumors that the spot would be used for a number of purposes that some say would’ve sparked controversy – a center for homeless kids, a Muslim boys school, a Turkish establishment (not a school), and a charter school are just some examples.
As the rumors swirled, Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association hoped to discuss the topic at it’s meeting on February 1. The meeting was cancelled due to weather, but some members still wish they had the chance to hear about the project.
“I think there’s going to be a lot questions,” said Laura LaPlant, the group’s recording secretary. “[People] are going to have issues with who’s going in there. That’s always going to be the case.” She said she expects community concerns about the owners’ Turkish background, as well as issues about traffic and parking – but that, overall, it’s a “relief” to hear that it’s a private school.
Other SB/PB Civic boardmembers would’ve liked to have been involved in the project before it was a done deal.
“It’s nice in your neighborhood to find out what’s going to happen before it happens so we can talk about it,” said Tina Maffeo. “It would be nice being that we still live here and pay taxes.”
Maffeo, an employee at P.S. 52, said she still had concerns about the school since it wasn’t clear how truly mixed the student body is. She said she’s been disappointed by a trend in the neighborhood of increased segregation as the Muslim population increases.
“I work in a public school, and now all of a sudden all these seperate places [like ethnic-based charter schools and religious private schools] are popping up, and I’m sure that it’s not going to be open to everybody if it’s privately funded,” she said. “We’re shut out. That’s really my concern. After the fact it happens and we’re stuck with our tails between our legs.”
Maffeo and others are planning to invite the school’s leadership to a future SB/PB Civic meeting to, hopefully, put some of these concerns to rest.
Administrators at the school did not return phone calls for this story, but Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo said that the community needn’t worry. Scavo attended an event at the school and saw a diverse student body. And the location at 2727 Coney Island Avenue is well run.
“The only time during the course of the day you would know there’s a school there is at 4-ish when the buses are there. Other than that, they’re in the building all day, not in the streets, and it’s a quiet, neatly-run organization,” she said. “I really don’t think it’s going to cause a problem or be an upset to the neighborhood.”
She added that the traffic situation would likely be far safer for the students. Currently, buses leave kids curbside on traffic-packed Coney Island Avenue. But the Golden Gate location will allow buses to pull into the parking lot for boarding and unloading. Children will never have to set foot on Knapp Street or Shore Road, and buses won’t block traffic lanes.
For those keeping track, the building was sold by its former owner – Krishna Management – to Amity for $15.5 million, just $100,000 more than he paid for it in 2006.