By Albert Amateau
A public school advocacy group based in the school district that includes the Village, Chelsea and Tribeca has called for school space to be included in the redevelopment of Pier 40 at W. Houston St.
In a letter last week to Diane Taylor, chairperson of the Hudson River Park Trust’s board of directors, the Public School Political Action Committee called for at least 100,000 square feet of the 1.2 million-square-foot, two-story pier to be dedicated to school space to relieve overcrowding in District 2 schools.
The letter, signed by Parent Teacher Association leaders and accompanied by a petition signed by 133 education advocates, came a week before the Trust’s Jan. 31 board meeting, when the park authority’s directors potentially were going to vote on whether to pick one of two responses to a request for proposals to redevelop Pier 40. But the Trust’s directors decided to put off the vote for two months.
One of the two R.F.P. responses The People’s Pier plan by CampGroup and Urban Dove, which the Trust has called financially unviable calls for 150,000 square feet of school space. Not part of the R.F.P. process, a feasibility study by a third group, the Pier 40 Partnership, proposes 100,000 square feet for a school in a pier dedicated to public recreation and parking.
A proposal by The Related Companies, to include a Cirque du Soleil theater but no school space, is the other R.F.P. proposal for the pier.
Ann Kjellberg, president of the Political Action Committee, said on Mon., Feb. 4, that she was pleased that there was a chance that school space could still be included in the redeveloped pier. But she added that the Trust’s failure to either wrap up the R.F.P. process or pick the Partnership plan left many people confused about the next step for Pier 40.
“We’re glad to have a few more weeks to work with the Pier 40 Partnership and CampGroup to refine the school space options, but we’re confused about the future of the pier,” Kjellberg said.
The committee letter points out that the shortage of real estate options and the constraints of landmarked districts make it difficult to site new schools in District 2, where enrollment was expected to grow by 18.5 percent in the 14-year period ending 2014. Moreover, current enrollment in the zoned public schools in the area is already at more than 100 percent of capacity, the letter says.
The letter goes on to say that recreational use of Pier 40, which by law must have space equivalent to 50 percent of its footprint dedicated to public recreation, is especially compatible with school use: “A school could benefit during the fallow hours of the day from facilities available to the public in the afternoons, evenings, weekends and summers,” the letter says. Creating a middle school on the pier would help satisfy a district need and would free up space in local elementary school buildings where middle schools are currently shoehorned in, the letter says.
Creative planning could make both security and public access to school space practical on Pier 40, which could provide “a unique opportunity to integrate school and public life imaginatively,” the letter says. Provision for 100,000 square feet would accommodate a single school, while 150,000 square feet would accommodate a cluster of small schools sharing the same facility, the letter suggests.
In addition to Kjellberg, of the Political Action Committee, and Leonie Haimson, of Class Size Matters, the letter is signed by parents and leaders from P.S. 3, P.S. 41 and Greenwich Village Middle School in the Village; the School for Artists and Writers and the Lab School in Chelsea; Salk School of Science on E. 19th St.; P.S. 104 on E. 21st St.; P.S. 234 and P.S. 150 in Tribeca; P.S. 130 in Chinatown, and the West Village Nursery School, a private school in the Village.