By Pninit Cole
There is a dialogue building around the North High proposed parking lot expansion on the corner of Beach Road that some wish to deem a “luxury for spoiled kids.” That is not only an insult to the many children who drive their cars to school because they must get to a job or internship after school in their senior year while both parents are at work, but also an inappropriate judgment on the parents. Many of their parents, themselves graduates of the Great Neck Public Schools and surrounding areas, also drove to school when they were seniors. This is the reality of living in a suburban area and has been for the last 40 years or more. To be told something their parents enjoyed in their youth is somehow now a luxury or that the kids are spoiled to take part in it is offensive, judgmental and rude.
The reality is that the need for extra parking spots has been something the prior principal at North High School actively sought. The already existing need for additional space was exacerbated in part because of the very successful Optional Zone program instituted 10 years ago by the district that attempted to curtail overcrowding at South. Children in certain geographic neighborhoods of Great Neck were afforded the option to go to North or South when they entered sixth grade. This choice resulted in an increased enrollment at Great Neck North and alleviated the overcrowding at South. The high school saw an eventual increase of 200 students due to the Optional Zone, or about 50 students per grades 9-12, due to the shift. In addition to the swing of students choosing North over South, a steady rise in student enrollment over the past decade at E.M. Baker School, from which 90 percent of the students feed directly to North, has increased the high school population even more. Recognizing the increasing trends, the school wished to expand the lot, but due to budgetary pressures under the 2 percent tax cap, had to wait for the Bond Issuance to fund the additional spots.
What the residents opposing the lot complain about is increasing traffic. But, there will be an orderly, distinct traffic pattern with the expansion. Right now, the school is averaging about 150 student drivers per year, as reported by the administration. There are about 100 children who drive to school daily. Currently there are 40 spots that these 100 students must race to school to fight for. This results in the majority of student drivers circling the neighborhood looking for on the street parking. Parkwood is an option now, but it is not realistic to think anyone will choose that when on the street parking is available next to the school. It is human nature to try to find a spot closest to your destination, especially in inclement weather. For everyone who parks at Parkwood: Do you go to the furthest spot in the lot near the exit on Arrandale or do you drive around slowly searching for a spot closest to the pool entrance? The same applies here.
This is not a luxury. These aren’t entitled kids. This has been an existing need that addresses a very real safety issue. What is a luxury is expecting that a project that was voted on and approved, to improve a plot of land not even fit to be an athletic field because it is a swamp, will be taken off because residents did not bother to educate, organize or voice their opinion until it was moot to do so.