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.
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.