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Tuesday’s announcement on the Peck Slip school by the city Department of Education gave us reason to be optimistic concerning the future of Lower Manhattan and the school overcrowding crisis the neighborhood is facing.
The decision to amend the D.O.E.’s capital plan in order to allow for more seats at the future school shows that School’s Chancellor Dennis Walcott is listening to this community. We hope he continues to listen — to parents, to educators, to elected officials like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has for fought tirelessly to make the overcrowding crisis in Downtown schools a priority for the D.O.E.
While 180 new seats is wonderful news, it falls far short of what will be needed by the time the Peck Slip actually opens its doors come 2015.
We hope Mr. Walcott continues to accept invitations to appear at Speaker Silver’s monthly overcrowding task force meetings. We know that Mr. Walcott will benefit from the task force’s expertise. We are confident that the community members and educators that make up the task force will continue to fight for adequate space in schools so that the residential revitalization of Lower Manhattan will not be cut short by inadequate educational planning.
Rudin must do more
Community Board 2’s resolution on the Rudin plan to redevelop the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site is hard-hitting and thorough. It’s the first step in the city’s seven-month ULURP review. Most notably, C.B. 2’s resolution recommends that a rezoning not be granted to increase the allowable residential floor area ratio (F.A.R.) for the former hospital’s east campus. However, Rudin notes its current design — with 450 high-end residential condos — would have less bulk than the former hospital’s east campus. The Rudin project would, indeed, contain 86,000 square feet less.
Rudin has also already reduced the design’s size four times — from 624,000 to 590,000 square feet and from 22 to 16 stories at its peak. Furthermore, Rudin provided a financial guarantee for a new 564-seat school in the Foundling Hospital building on W. 17th St., although the city is paying the roughly $60 million to buy and outfit the space. The developer has also pledged to create a public park on the triangle south of O’Toole.
In addition, Rudin helped bring in North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System to create a free-standing emergency department and healthcare center in the St. Vincent’s O’Toole Building. So, in a couple of years, the neighborhood fortunately will have significant healthcare restored. Rudin has committed $10 million toward this $110 million facility.
Certainly, the condos and healthcare center and E.R. will be welcomed by local merchants, and provide a significant number of construction jobs in a stalled economy. In addition, the new Rudin residences would finally put this property on the city tax rolls.
However, Rudin must do more. Rudin is asking for considerable zoning concessions that will sharply increase high income residential presence in a landmarked district.
There will reportedly be a $29 million unit in this development. If that kind of profit is facilitated by a zoning change, affordable units must be included either in the condo building or off site.
To alleviate local school overcrowding, Trinity Real Estate and N.Y.U. in their rezoning deliberations are providing space for new public schools — at an estimated cost of roughly $60 million and $40 million, respectively. Given Rudin’s project is smaller, it should give at least $15 million, whether toward the hoped-for purchase of 75 Morton St. or another school need.