Volume 21, Number 10 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | July 18 - 24, 2008

Schools could open early in temporary site

The Department of Education may put 250 elementary seats in converted commercial space at 26 Broadway in 2009 to ease the school crunch Downtown.

The new seats, likely kindergarten and first grade, would be an “incubator” for the two new pre K- 8 schools that are slated to open in 2010: the Site 2B school in Battery Park City and the Beekman St. school.

The proposal would divert elementary students from the overcrowded P.S. 89 and P.S. 234, giving the Battery Park City and Tribeca schools some breathing room in the year parents are predicting will be the tightest squeeze.

Bob Townley, a C.B. 1 member and executive director of Manhattan Youth, heard the D.O.E. present the proposal at a meeting in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office. And while it was only one of many ideas the D.O.E. has on easing overcrowding, the D.O.E. seemed to favor it because it is cost-efficient, Townley said. The space is large enough that the D.O.E. could reuse it after the new schools open, he said.

Debra Wexler, spokesperson for the D.O.E., said the city is still deciding whether the 26 Broadway space can accommodate young children. She also wants to hear from the community and the Community Education Council.

Dennis Gault, a C.B. 1 member, likes the idea of elementary seats in 26 Broadway because he hopes local schools could keep using the space after 2010. Downtown’s population is expected to keep growing, and Gault and other parents think the two new schools will not provide enough seats.

So far, others in the community do not appear on board.

“It’s the worst location possible,” Mariama James said at Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee meeting this week. The office building that would contain the school is sandwiched between Merrill Lynch’s headquarters and the New York Stock Exchange, a congested, high-security area that she sees as inconvenient.

Ann DeFalco, co-chairperson of the Youth and Ed Committee, agreed with James. She doesn’t want young children to travel so far from their homes to get to school, and she said it would be hard for them to adjust to a new location several times during elementary school.

Barry Skolnick, another C.B. 1 member, was concerned about the safety of children in 26 Broadway. The space will also house a high school starting in 2009: the Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women, now located on E. 12th St.

Once the high school moves in, the 250 school seats will be left over, and the D.O.E. has promised them to local elementary or middle school children. The D.O.E. previously floated the idea of permanently moving I.S. 89, the middle school that shares a building with P.S. 89, to the space at 26 Broadway, but the community was even more decidedly against that idea.

The community board is forming a subcommittee on school zoning to start discussing how they want to redraw zones in anticipation of the two new schools opening. The D.O.E. generally does not decide on zoning until a year before new schools open.

-- Julie Shapiro




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