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Science annex debuts amid controversy - Upset public will be excluded from new library facilities

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Midwood High School’s state-of-the-art science annex is now open – but not to the public.

The school, located at 2839 Bedford Avenue, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony filled with speeches from past principals, city Department of Education (DOE) officials and local politicians but no one mentioned that the annex’s library would be closed to neighborhood residents in spite of a promise of community access.

“The library was supposed to be part of this package. That was the giveback after everything else was reneged on,” explained local resident Florence Valentino. “They said the library would be accessible after the school day. They never discussed how it would be manned or how it would be open to the public but they did promise that.”

Earlier this year, Fred Maley of the School Construction Authority (SCA) met with Community Board 14’s Education, Libraries and Cultural Affairs Committee and acknowledged that a commitment was made to the community.

Maley said he told Midwood Principal David Cohen, “This was clearly promised [by the former principal]. His response to me was, ‘I never made that promise and I don’t have the staff’” to run the library after school hours.

The promise of library access won the community’s support as the annex was being designed. Residents put their concerns about the project – mainly the two-level pedestrian bridge connecting the annex to Midwood’s main building – on hold.

As Cohen made his way to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, he told this paper that there was a “breakdown” in the plan to allow the community access to the library.

“Unfortunat­ely, a lot of those initial plans never came through,” he said. “The assumption was that the public library would staff it on the weekend. There was no follow-up on that.”

Cohen, who became principal two years ago as construction began, said he doesn’t have the money to keep the library open after school hours and on the weekend for community residents’ use.

“It’s not something I can do right now,” he said.

Although the new annex is not open to the community, it will serve its main purpose – providing Midwood’s students with top-notch science labs.

“Today truly marks a step forward,” Cohen said. “It’s an opportunity to have better facilities.”

Amanda Cohen, a senior at Midwood, said it has been difficult for students to learn in crowded classrooms and outdated science labs.

“It’s very cramped in our school so it’s hard to use the facilities,” she said. “Now that there’s more room I think we’re going to be better off.”

Cohen said she’s “excited” to set foot in the new annex.

“I can’t wait to go into the library because I’m an English major,” she said with a smile.

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