Those green painted wooden fences with windows can only mean one thing: another school project coming to Riverdale. This time it’s the Salanter Akiba Riverdale High School that is doing the building.
The private co-ed Modern Orthodox yeshiva is adding 50,000 square feet to the school building at 503 W. 259th St. that will actually be around the block on Riverdale Avenue — the site of the former Capitol One bank building.
The demolition of the building will take place between now and Aug. 7 and will be done by DNO Equipment and Development of Flushing, according to a demolition permit posted at the 5977 Riverdale Ave. building. “We are excited to be commencing the demolition stage of the project as we finalize plans for the construction of a new building,” said high school principal Rabbi Tully Harcsztark.
The new building will essentially add only one story to the current footprint, according to Harczstark.
“It’s going to feel like an expansion of the current building,” he said. “It will have a number of levels up and connect to the existing building. We want it to feel like it’s one building inside where you could walk all the way through.”
The new buildings on the Riverdale Avenue side will house a new sports facility, parking and a building in the rear to house prayer services and three classrooms.
“There will be a setback. Basically, there will be a ground floor and partially sub ground floor on Riverdale Avenue,” the principal said. “That will become a two-story sports facility. We are moving one gym into this. Above that will be the roof and the parking will be extended there.”
The project has been two years in the making and is expected to be completed by 2025, according to a school document posted online. It started in December 2021 when SAR purchased the former Capital One building for $2.4 million. The school expects to break ground sometime this year and erect the new buildings during 2024.
According to the online plans, the new setback building will be home to new classrooms and a Batei Midrash (Askenazi and Sephardic) while the building closest to Riverdale Avenue will include new athletic facilities, a day care center and more parking.
According to Harczstark, the expansion includes adding more space to the arts and design engineering classes in the original high school by eliminating the floor hockey space. Also, the current gym will be moved to the new athletic facility.
The building that will be set back will connect to the current high school through a staircase, Harcsztark said.
“Everything we are doing is of right,” the principal said. “There are no variances we are applying for. Nothing like that. ”
For Harcsztark, he wanted to emphasize the school wants the community to be aware of what will be taking place over the next two years.
“For us, it’s important that we want the community to know that we are not looking for something that is out of regular limits and the importance of keeping the streets clear,” he said.
Community Board 8 land use committee chair Charles Moerdler told The Press the board has known about the project and hopes to meet with SAR officials in September now that plans have been finalized.
“We’ve known about this planned expansion close to a year,” Moerdler said. “It’s a strange kind of thing, the building as I understand is going to be. We had a brief discussion at the last land use meeting.
“As you may or may not know, or at least my understanding, a number of Ukranian kids that have been added to the roster of children attending SAR.”
of SAR legacy
As the founding principal of the high school, Harczstark has seen how much the student body and building itself has grown the past 20 years. He wants to ensure the school is set for the future to meet the needs of the 674 students attend classes. That compares to the inaugural class of 68 students in 2003.
“Thankfully, it has been a thriving institution,” he said. “We’d like to keep it that way as we enter the third decade of the school. We want to round out the resources for the full size we can become. We want to fill it out.”
Middle school expansion
At the same time as the high school expansion, the SAR Academy at 655 W. 254th St. will be undergoing an expansion of its own. According to plans posted online, the middle school will add a 10,000 square foot floor to the top of the existing school building starting this year. That project is due to be completed by next year.
“I’m not really calling it an expansion,” said Rabbi Bini Krauss, school principal. “Since Covid, we have had smaller classes. But we want to have more STEM class and prayer spaces.”
He also mentioned the school has multiple student with special needs who need more space for their programs. “To accommodate all of this, you need a lot more space,” he added.
He made a point to say the school is not adding to the current student population of nearly 1,000.
As far as reaching out to Community Board 8 regarding both projects, SAR officials have not done so as of deadline.