downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 | Issue 24 | Oct. 27 - Nov. 2, 2006

P.S. 234 annex may open in 2007

Education officials have changed their tune on the timing of the P.S. 234 annex, but Downtown community leaders still aren’t singing along.

David Feiner, an aide to City Councilmember Alan Gerson, spoke with the School Construction Authority, the P.S. 234 School Leadership Team and Region 9 school officials this week about the fate of the annex. Feiner then reported back to Community Board members and parents Tuesday night, saying that the Construction Authority now expects a November 2007 completion date for the school expansion.

That projection is better than the September 2008 timeline handed down by the Board of Education in recent weeks, but in the minds of most community members, it is not good enough.

“It’s not good to open a school in November,” Feiner said, pointing out that the existing school would have to house the annex’s students for two months, creating severe overcrowding in a building that is already at 120 percent capacity.

When completed, the annex will provide between five and seven classrooms, depending on how it is designed. The city will take possession of the “core and shell” of the space in January. The annex and a new Manhattan Youth community center will both be located in the six-story Warren St. tower of the 200 Chambers St. site. The rest of the Resnick-developed complex, including a 29-story tower along West St. and a six-story tower along Chambers St., will become residential units.

The residences will open sometime in the spring of 2007, with the community center to follow. The annex was originally slated to open in time for the start of the 2007-08 school year, but a budget battle between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the state delayed funding for the project.

However, Feiner was optimistic that negotiations will put the schedule back on track. He plans to meet with school officials and developers in the next couple of weeks to iron out the sticky details, which involve the reconstruction of P.S. 234’s playground. The reconstruction, which is one of the last items on the developer’s agenda, may obstruct the entrance to the annex — hence the delay to November.

“We should be able to have access in time to open [in September],” Feiner said. “If not, we expect a strong community response to that.”

Community Board 1 Youth Committee Chair Paul Hovitz expressed faith in Gerson’s team, but said that if negotiations fail, the community should be prepared to demonstrate, protest and do whatever else is necessary to move the process along.

“The bottom line is, we need it open in September,” Hovitz said.

— Skye H. McFarlane

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