Local elected officials have issued another plea to the city’s Department of Education (DOE) to provide funding for a public school as part of the Essex Crossing project.
In a letter dated Nov. 16 to NYC education officials, State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou called on the city to amend the current 2015-2019 capital plan to include a Lower East Side school. The letter was co-signed by U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator-elect Brian Kavanagh, City Council member Margaret Chin and City Council member-elect Carlina Rivera. They requested a meeting with the DOE and with the New York City School Construction Authority.
As part of negotiations with the city years ago, the developers of Essex Crossing were required to reserve a spot for a school on Site 5 of the large development in the former Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. A 15-story residential building with retail spaces (Target, Trader Joe’s, etc.) is scheduled to open on the site next year. The school parcel, located on Suffolk Street, between Grand and Broome streets, will be a vacant lot on opening day.
In a December 2013 letter from the Department of Education, elected officials were told that the city was, “supportive of the plan to reserve a parcel… for construction of a school” and a deputy chancellor, Kathleen Grimm, acknowledged that, “existing capacity of schools in the area may not be able to accommodate the demand generated by the new housing planned at SPURA.” Grimm (who passed away in 2015) added, however, that funding would not be allocated due to “timing and priorities.” Even though it was known at the time that the first families would be moving into the Seward Park project in 2018, Grimm wrote, “…we believe the need for new seats will not occur until the 2020-2024 Capital Plan period.”
In a statement provided to The Lo-Down, Assembly member Niou referred to the looming completion of Essex Crossing’s first four building and asserted, “a critical piece of the puzzle is missing – a school to house the dozens of children expected to move into Essex Crossing within months.”
“Our community foresaw this need and fought hard to reserve a site for a school at the SPURA site,” said Niou, “which is why we urge the City to act swiftly and build the school that our community needs. The clock is ticking as residents begin to inhabit Essex Crossing, and the City must prevent overcrowding in our schools as we’ve seen in other parts of lower Manhattan.”
Community Board 3 Chairperson Jamie Rogers added, “Now is the time to keep our promise to the next generation and build a school on Site 5 (of Essex Crossing).”
Back in 2013, CB3 published a position paper that made a case for a school as part of the Seward Park development. The board called for a Pre-K to eighth grade school serving DOE districts 1 and 2 (the Essex Crossing project straddles both districts). An environmental assessment conducted in conjunction with the Seward Park project estimated that the new apartments would create a need for 108 elementary and 36 intermediate school seats by the year 2022. In the report, the community board argued that Lower East Side schools were already overcrowded and that the DOE had failed to account for all of the new housing coming to the neighborhood.
One-thousand new apartments are being built as part of Essex Crossing. When the 2014 report was published, several huge developments in the Two Bridges neighborhood had not yet been announced. Those projects, now being reviewed by city officials, will include thousands of new residential units, all located in Community School District 1. An environmental review in the Two Bridges area is supposed to be taking into account the potential need for additional school seats.
In response to the most recent letter, we’re told a meeting has been scheduled with elected officials.
See below for the full letter from elected officials and for CB3’s 2014 report.