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CB3 Committee Strengthens Support for SPURA School

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We already wrote (extensively!) about Monday night’s meeting of Community Board 3’s SPURA task force. But there were some important issues we weren’t able to discuss in the main story, including a proposal to set aside space for a new school on the Seward Park redevelopment site.  CB3’s draft guidelines currently state, “Consideration should be provided to setting aside sufficient land and building capacity for a public primary or secondary school.”

The committee decided to include the provision in its guidelines, even though Department of Education officials have told city planners working with the community board that there’s no need for a new school on the SPURA site. At this week’s meeting, there was general agreement that the language in the document should be strengthened.

Community Board member Harvey Epstein said “even though the DOE disagrees, we should be stronger about the need for a school.” Noting that the SPURA site sits in two school districts (1 and 2), he added, “it should be a soft boundary,” so students on either side of Clinton Street (the dividing line) could attend. In recent weeks, there has been some talk about adjusting the boundary, but that would require action from the State Legislature. Many parents say LES schools are already overcrowded.  CB3’s guidelines call for building at least 800 new apartments on SPURA, creating the need for new classroom space, and potentially exacerbating the overcrowding problem.

Dominic Pisciotta, CB3 chair, said he agreed with Epstein but cautioned that pressing for a school could be a sticking point if and when the community board begins negotiating with the city on the proposed guidelines. David McWater, chair of the SPURA committee, was the lone dissenter, saying he trusted the DOE’s analysis of District 1 and 2 needs.

In the past couple of years, parent activists and downtown elected officials have railed against the Education Department for badly misjudging school space requirements in District 2.  In July, District 1’s Community Education Council authored an opinion piece in The Lo-Down strongly advocating for a school on the SPURA development site.

Monday night, the committee did not decide the precise wording of the revised statement on a proposed school siting. They’ll be working that out sometime before the next meeting in January.

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