Volume 18 • Issue 27 | November 18 - 24, 2005

The PATH to rebuilding / Progress Report


Downtown Express file photos by Elisabeth Robert

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, left, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced a deal in February to build a Beekman St. school as part of a Frank Gehry-designed tower to be built by developer Bruce Ratner, below.

Adjustments made to East Side school project

A drop-off location will be available for children arriving to a new elementary school on Beekman Street, bringing a dispute over where the children would gather at the start and end of the school day to a close.

The pre-K-8 school will be built in a new 75-story Frank Gehry-designed tower adjacent to New York Downtown Hospital and parents will be able to drop off and pick up their children at a designated area on William St.

The 4-story, 98,000 sq. ft. school will be the first for the East Side neighborhood. Over the summer, Community Board 1 reviewed the designs for the school and was dismayed to see a schoolyard not included in the plans, although there is a rooftop garden play area for the 600 students. The hospital advocated against a courtyard gathering area for the children, fearing it might disrupt patients at their 25,000 sq. ft. hospital expansion, which will also be housed in the new tower.

The $65 million school, partially funded with $20 from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, is the most expensive school ever built by the Department of Education.

An agreement about the student drop-off location was reached through discussions with developer Bruce Ratner, hospital officials, Community Board 1 representatives and New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who helped broker the deal with Mayor Mike Bloomberg to fit the school into the residential tower in February.

“This is a win for us,” C.B. 1 chairperson Julie Menin told board members at a Nov. 15 meeting.

But she also warned of another fight still to come when construction begins in April.

Construction for the 1 million sq. ft. tower—the tallest Downtown after the planned 1,776-ft. tall Freedom Tower—will require pile driving, a noisy hammering excavation process. The tower adjoins two residential buildings at 140 and 150 Nassau St. and is directly opposite the hospital. South Bride Towers, a large residential development, is also nearby. Residents worry the noise will be excessive.

“Everybody says the worst part is pile driving and that can take a few months. Should I be out of my house for a few months?” Charis San Antonio Cooper, a 150 Nassau resident told Downtown Express in August. Cooper’s one-year-old son’s bedroom faces the tower site, which is currently a parking lot. “The only thing I’m honestly, truthfully worried about is the pile driving.”

“We really need to put up a good fight here and make sure the residents, hospital and businesses are protected,” said Menin, adding that additional discussions with Ratner and Silver will likely follow.

The community recently won a fight about pile driving at a Tribeca development near an existing elementary school. City Councilmember Alan Gerson secured a quieter excavation process before the project was approved by City Council. But unlike the Tribeca project, known as Site 5B, Ratner does not need city approval to begin construction.

— Ronda Kaysen


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