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DOE: No Need For a School on Seward Park Site

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Is there a need for a new school on the Lower East Side? According to the Department of Education, the answer is “no.” During the summer, members of District 1’s Community Education Council asked Community Board 3 to make an elementary school a priority on SPURA, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.  David Quart of the NYC Economic Development Corp. reported back to CB3 at last month’s SPURA task force meeting:

Today Community District 1 schools have some capacity, have some available seats. Community District 2 schools are, for the most part, at capacity. We did some preliminary analysis, we spoke with the School Construction Authority (SCA) and looking at projections, the numbers don’t pan out that the numbers themselves justify a need for a school in this area. It’s not only taking into account what’s happening with existing schools but also demographic trends and even with the addition of the Seward Park site would not trigger the need for a new school. That said, the SCA, Department of Education updates their numbers every year. That could change. But currently the SCA does not have money in its budget for a new school in this area. So what I can say as far as the community planning process, as you think about a school, consider the context, the framework in which people work in as far as trade-offs.

The 7-acre SPURA site is mostly in District 2, although a small portion of it is in District 1.  Quart said a typical 500-seat elemnetary school would cost about $60 million. City planners have said there’s room on the SPURA site for things the community wants (such as affordable housing, community facilities, etc). But at the same time, they have indicated, there needs to be enough “trade-offs,” revenue producing elements (market rate housing, retail tenants) to pay for those “community benefits.”

During the meeting, CB3 member Harvey Epstein said, as a parent, he knows there’s a need for new neighborhood schools. He suggested the school issue be kept “on the table” throughout the ongoing negotiations.  District 2 schools have been plagued by a serious overcrowding crisis for the past several years.

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  1. Two years ago DOE said they didn’t need new schools on the upper west side, and then they had to build one over the summer to accommodate the deluge of incoming students they had somehow failed to predict. Bloomberg festoons the city with new residential construction and thinks apparently that children will refrain from moving into these apartments. The city claims to know that seats aren’t needed in our growing neighborhoods but won’t show us the data that got them there. Neighborhoods, like CB3, bravo!, have to take matters into their own hands.

  2. District 2 schools are severely overcrowded, particularly in the downtown area, and District 1 schools will soon face the same fate, of Kindergarten wait lists, growing class sizes, and loss of preKs and cluster rooms, since enrollment is growing fast.

    The above statement by the gentleman at EDC means simply that DOE doesn’t want to spend the money for a new school. That repeats a pattern we have seen across the city. Don’t confuse the DOE’s stubborn refusal to build sufficient schools to prevent rampant overcrowding with a lack of actual need. Let’s demand honesty and integrity from our public officials.

    Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters

  3. Responsible development requires responsibly compiling information about community needs. No schools in Lower Manhattan have been sited by the SCA. In spite of the fact that 13,000 residential units have gone on line since 9/11, no schools would have been build without endless community advocacy. We are still going to be hundreds of seats short in a few years-in spite of two small schools being built. (D2)

    Wake up and smell the coffee. It is really scary to be a parent without a local school for your 5 year old/s. And then it does not get better-wait until you are submitting the applications for MS and HS and your kid is competing against THOUSANDS for a spot.

    Pretty unsettling for all parents and democracy.

  4. My question:
    If we have enough space for all our children why do we still have parents pitted against one another for classroom space in schools? As when Girls Prep needed more space in PS 188 and PS 94? Why are there three schools with no relationship to one another co-located in the IS 131 building (a fourth school was barely dissuaded from co-locating there too). All deserving schools with ideas and dreams jammed into buildings with different and often conflicting needs and ages. Struggling schools need resources not pressure.

    A community planning process is just that. A plan. For the future. One that is hopeful and makes people want to set down roots here.

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