P.S. 175, A Community Pillar Since 1951 Rediscovering PS 175’s Early History Annadale Park Unites A Community For Generations

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By Michael Perlman

P.S. 175, photo by Michael Perlman

Public School 175, the Annadale Park School and later referenced as the Lynn Gross Discovery School, has been enriching young minds since 1951. Located in a three-story brick and limestone Colonial building with the basement Martha Warner Auditorium and a lunchroom at 64-35 102nd Street, and surrounded by recreation areas, it occasionally accommodates a few generations of local families. Graceful Sycamore trees form a unique skyline around the school and park. The façade also features Greek motifs and complements nearby Colonial rowhouse assemblages. This columnist attended P.S. 175 from 1987 to 1993, and over a week ago, toured the school for the first time since graduation. 

A school becomes a uniting force, complete with cherished memories, but sometimes an early history remains untold to decades of graduates and current students. On October 20, 1948, the City Planning Commission approved the site to erect P.S. 175. Then on October 25, 1949 at 2 PM, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at 65th Avenue and 102nd Street, and plans were filed at Borough Hall on October 31. Construction of the estimated $1,678,000 school, the 18th school to be erected within a 31-month period in Queens (since WWII), would begin a week after the groundbreaking ceremony. P.S. 175 would address overcrowding at P.S. 3 in Forest Hills and the nearby Stephen A. Halsey J.H.S. 157, which accommodated elementary school grades prior to P.S. 175’s completion. On December 7, 1950, the Board of Estimate allocated $72,347.30 for equipment and furnishings.

At the groundbreaking, Mayor William O’Dwyer and Borough Works Commissioner Maurice A. FitzGerald turned the first spades of soil on site in front of hundreds of parents, who embraced a new educational experience. Incoming students assisted officials, while witnessing history-in-the-making. P.S. 175 was envisioned for 1,238 students, spanning kindergarten to the sixth grade. The mayor explained that although “this is the 45th groundbreaking in our three and one-half years at City Hall, there are still 77 old and dilapidated schools in other parts of the city… But just as we are taking good care of Queens, we will someday have a beautiful school system that the city can be proud of.” 

Also in attendance were Board of Education Associate Superintendent George F. Pigott, Jr, Buildings Chairman of the Board Charles J. Bensley, Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Jansen, and Vice President of the Board of Education Vito F. Lanza. An invocation was led by Rabbi Josiah Derby of Rego Park Jewish Center and scripture readings were under the direction of First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills Pastor, Rev. Robert Reeves. Rev. James J. Saunders of Our Lady of Angelus Roman Catholic Church pronounced a benediction. 

Lanza addressed the large audience by referencing the building program as “The greatest school construction boom in the history of our community.” He also stated, “Faced with an unprecedented rise in pupil enrollment, which will not reach its peak for several years, the city has entered upon a further huge school construction program.” Dr. Jansen told onlookers, “Any nation that builds schools the way we are building them now is a nation that is planning ahead, and that is confident of its future.” 

“Three stories in height, the school facilities include 30 regular classrooms, 2 kindergartens, a nature study room, library, gymnasium, medical suite, combination playroom-lunchroom, and administrative offices,” read that month’s edition of the Long Island Star-Journal. P.S. 175 would be an innovative achievement. “A new type of classroom measuring 35 feet in length or seven feet longer than the former standard classroom, has been incorporated into the school planning,” the hard copy continued. Additionally, the plan included movable furniture, work tables, library tables, wooden built-in storage cabinets, sinks, portable easels, open book shelves, clay bins, and file cabinets. Quality polished wooden doors once featured ornate oval brass doorknobs bearing an inscription, “Public School City of New York.”

1st grade class, 1953 -1954. Photo courtesy of Bruce Berkow

 P.S. 175 was intended to be named the Meadow Lake School, after nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but the Annadale Park School was designated based on the historic Annadale Park section, later absorbed by a combination of Rego Park and Forest Hills in 1947. According to Historian Ron Marzlock, Annadale Park was developed by financier Charles W. Morganthaler of Jamaica, who named this mapped section from 1910 after Anna, his wife, and Craftsman style bungalows were developed by their son, carpenter Charles Jr. after WWI. Today’s boundaries would consist of the LIE, 63rd Road, 99th Street, and 102nd Street. Annadale Park Civic Association President John H. Osburg of 99-49 62nd Drive, was very influential locally, and in February 1950, it was announced that Annadale Park School would be named as a result of his advocacy. 

Incoming students and parents among local residents had much to be grateful for. On April 26, 1951, the Board of Estimate approved the development of the adjacent P.S. 175 Playground on Yellowstone Boulevard and 65th Avenue. “This will not be a school playground only. It will be open after school hours and will be operated jointly by the Board of Education and Parks Department. It will help materially to case the need for play facilities in the heavily developed section of Forest Hills,” stated Borough President FitzGerald in an address to the Long Island Star-Journal. The playground offered benches, swings, a sandpit, see-saws, sliding pons, and two handball courts. Today, it also includes chess tables and play equipment. The schoolyard offers basketball courts and is accompanied by a garden. Younger grade students would have their own recreational facilities on both sides of the H-shaped school. In 1985, Parks Department Commissioner Henry Jordan Stern renamed the park to Annadale Playground. 

Famed Architect Eric Kebbon, photo by John Christen Johansen

P.S. 175 was designed by foremost school architect Harold Erickson Kebbon Sr (1890 – 1964), who is remembered as Eric Kebbon, and is also credited with designing Halsey J.H.S. 157 and Forest Hills High School. He was a 1912 graduate of MIT, where he achieved a Bachelor of Science in Architecture. Through the 1930s New Deal, he designed post offices and courthouses, as an appointee of the U.S. Treasury. “In 1938, he was appointed by the NYC Mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, to be the supervising architect for the NYC Board of Education Design and Construction Department, through which he designed and constructed more than 100 schools,” read Kebbon’s obituary. He served as Vice President of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and was a member of the Architectural League of New York. 

Within the stately Colonial school’s walls, memories transcend the hands of time and hold a community strong. Some memorable teachers of the 1980s and 1990s include Mrs. Bumas, Mrs. Waxman, Mrs. Teicher, Mrs. Mandel, and Mrs. Fierro. Backtracking, graduates shared memories of P.S. 175’s earliest days, which signify how teachers and the administration have been making an impact since 1951
1st grade class of Dec. 3, 1951, photo courtesy of Lucy Brown Karwoski (middle row, 3rd girl from right)

Jack Heda attended from 1967 to 1970 and felt blessed to be placed in the IGC program (Intelligently Gifted Children). He had Mrs. Diskin in the 4th grade, followed by Mrs. Lakin, and lastly Mrs. Russikoff. He reminisced, “The beauty of the program was not so much the level, but classmates staying together and forming a bond, which followed us into Halsey and Forest Hills High School. I have deeply fond memories, which are not whitewashed as time tends to do. Academically, those three teachers built a foundation for a kid like me with severe ADD. I came to the school as a struggling student, and left with all the confidence.” Today, he credits his success in medical school and law school to confidence building from P.S. 175 “Annadale Park.” He also retains lifetime friendships. 

Heda relives many cherished moments in the beautiful concrete playground, playing softball and having outdoor assembly. “Of course, the glue of P.S. 175 was Principal Mr. William H. Lane, who embedded the school anthem, ‘Cheer Cheer for 175’ into our long-term memory. Further great memories of my final year were landing a lead role in ‘A Christmas Carol’ and being on safety patrol.” He still recalls the school colors, blue and gold.

Ronni Reiburn resided in Walden Terrace and currently lives in the upper James Madison in Forest Hills. She reminisced P.S. 175 in the 1970s. “I recall all the plays, as well as visiting the New York Stock Exchange in the 5th grade. Since we were learning fractions, we had to pick stocks to follow, in order to understand. I also wrote a report on opossums in the 2nd grade, and whichever class wrote the best reports, would have to read it to the other 2nd grade classes. They encouraged kids to be leaders and develop confidence in their abilities. I also remember reading newspaper headlines in Mrs. Harper’s kindergarten class.”

Reiburn is also thankful that her mother, Carolyn Reiburn, best known as Sandy, was offered an aide position after her father passed away, and now she holds fond memories of how her late mother made a difference. “My mother loved working with the students and she also made new friends, which gave her an additional purpose for nine years. Most of the kids who we grew up with, I’m still friends with. I will always be grateful for the school,” she continued. In more recent years, her youngest child attended P.S. 175’s new pre-k program.

Setauket resident David Finkelstein began in the 1st grade, when his family moved to 105-25 65th Avenue in March 1952. “I remember all of my teachers and principal, Mr. Lane, who loved poetry and would recite Walt Whitman’s ‘Oh Captain, My Captain’ at assemblies. Then in 1964, I was a student teacher there, and as Mr. Lane interviewed me, he remembered that I was one of his students. I remember playing in the schoolyard, basketball, punchball, touch football, and stickball. 

Finkelstein remembers great field trips to the Museum of Natural History, Botanical Gardens, and the Bronx Zoo, in addition to weekly assembly programs and watching “The Caine Mutiny” (1954) and “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950), and speaking in front of a PTA meeting about science class studies. “I remember winning the class spelling bee and making a puppet from paper mache. Most importantly, in my 5th and 6th grades, I made lifelong friends,” he said. 

Other recollections include hearing on the P. A. system that Albert Einstein died and Don Larson of the Yankees pitching a perfect game in the World Series, with a few innings to go. “Mr. Notkin, who was a rabid Yankee fan, told us that if he completed a perfect game, we were excused from our homework assignment… A ten year old’s dream!” 

Today, Finkelstein is a social worker and school administrator, and has been in the mental health field for 57 years. He also runs a program for special needs young adults called Giant Step Services, which he launched in 2008. Previously, he founded six programs for children and young adults with learning disabilities. He owes much gratitude to P.S. 175.

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