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Elected Officials Ask DOE to Fund New Seward Park School

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For the past few years, local activists have been pushing the city’s Department of Education (DOE) to build a new school as part of the Seward Park development project.  Now local elected officials are asking the DOE why the school is not part of the capital Plan for fiscal years 2015-2019.

spura school parcel

In the overall proposal unveiled earlier this year for the nine development parcels, a 15,000 square foot section of site 5, located at Clinton and Grand streets, was set aside for a school.  The School Construction Authority has, however, repeatedly rejected pleas to budget for the building, saying there is no need for a new facility on the Lower East Side.  A letter dated November 27 was sent to DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Lorraine Grillo, president of the School Construction Authority.  The letter reads, in part:


After sitting vacant for more than four decades, SPURA is now moving forward because of unprecedented collaboration with community stakeholders. Unfortunately, though the School Construction Authority included reference to the site in the DOE Capital Plan, it did not include a commitment to build a public school at the SPURA site. This is particularly disappointing given that the City included plans for a school in the project.  The SPURA project will attract hundreds of new families to the Community Board 3 area. It is imperative that adequate infrastructure, including school seats, be developed ahead of this population influx. The City recognized this need – raised throughout the community consultation process – and a parcel of land is reserved for the construction of a public school at the SPURA site. It is important that the City take the opportunity to develop new school seats now, rather than facing the consequences of school overcrowding once it is already too late – as has happened in other parts of Lower Manhattan. We urge the DOE to amend its Capital Plan to include construction of a school at the SPURA site.

The letter was signed by State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Council members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

In the past several months, a researcher hired by Community Board 3 has been examining neighborhood demographics and gathering other information that could be useful in building a case for a school. A report is expected from the researcher early next year.


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  1. Do you know what the developers are thinking about Beth Hamedrash Hagadol on Norfolk? They wouldn’t want that to just fall down in the midst of SPURA, would they?

  2. We asked the developers about the synagogue some time ago and received this reply: “It wasn’t a part of our proposal and we aren’t prepared to speculate on any kind of future relationship at this point.” An engineering study was recently conducted, confirming that it will take millions of dollars to restore the building. As you point out, it’s right in the middle of the Essex Crossing site, so one would think the developers would like to acquire the parcel, if possible. The big question is this: will they be willing to fund the restoration? The synagogue possesses air rights, which could be enticing, but increasing the bulk of the surrounding buildings would be a major ordeal, since the agreements between the community and the city regarding building height are very specific.

  3. Also, the synagogue doesn’t own much more than the land occupied by its building. I believe the whole rest of the block (including the parking lots, the Hong Ning building and 384 Grand) are owned by the non-profit Chinese-American Planning Council that operates Hong Ning and 384 Grand. My rough understanding is that any development on the parking lots on the block would likely require rezoning.

  4. That’s true, Micah. CPC owns the parking lot. The synagogue and Chinese Planning Council have talked about what might be possible. CPC believes that it would be required by HUD to build senior housing on the site, so it’s not just a city zoning issue.

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