Volume 16 • Issue 29 | December 16 - 22, 2003

Letters to the Editor

Zoned M.S. for P.S. 89

This letter was sent to Peter Heaney, superintendent of Region 9, which includes School District 2. It was written by Angela Benfield, an officer of the P.S. 89 P.T.A., and signed by about 450 parents.

My children are students attending P.S. 89. As you know, P.S. 89 is located on the Lower West Side of Manhattan in Battery Park City.

Our community’s zoned middle school is Simon Baruch Middle School (M.S.104) at 330 East 21st St., near Peter Cooper Village. While this is a fine school, it is not located anywhere near our community. There is not even a direct subway ride from Battery Park City to this school. As a result, Baruch Middle School is not a feasible option for many parents, especially working parents and parents that have younger children in elementary school.

If Battery Park City parents do not choose Baruch, they are required to go through the stressful process of touring, interviewing and testing to have their children attend another middle school. This is an unfair option. Moreover, for parents unhappy with sending their children on subways and buses out of the community, the only option may be private school (often unaffordable) or a move out of the city. Indeed, the number of families pulling up roots from our close-knit community after fifth grade is staggering.

As you know, Community School District 2 will receive three new Pre-K-8 schools under the city’s five-year education plan. Moreover, Governor Pataki has recently announced that there should be an additional school in Lower Manhattan to accommodate the growing residential population. In light of these plans, and in consideration of what is truly a burdensome situation for many of our families, we request that you: (1) allocate one of the planned Pre-K-8 schools to Lower Manhattan; (2) zone this new school so that grades 6-8 are for Lower Manhattan students; and (3) re-consider I.S. 89’s status as a choice school, and re-zone it for the community as well.

Memorial plans

To The Editor:
Although I heartily agree with the underlying thrust of many of the comments made about the memorial finalists — that it is imperative that the eventual memorial work well with surrounding neighborhoods — I think a number of very important points are being overlooked in the current debate (news article, “C.B. 1 rules out 1 memorial design,” Dec. 2-8, 2003).

First, it is important to point out that it was never really possible to cross diagonally across the bathtub.  Pre-9/11, one could enter the concourse through the lobbies of Tower Two and Tower One (and indirectly through the hotel lobby which led to Tower One).  While this is a maybe a tiny bit better than having to travel up to Greenwich St. or Fulton St. to enter the site, as required by the Libeskind site plan, the difference in entry points isn’t really all that much.

I submit that the much bigger loss to connectivity of the Libeskind site plan (and the memorials designed to fit within it) is the loss of the very pedestrian friendly, weather-protected concourse that was street-level at both the Tower Two and Tower One lobbies.  Once one entered this concourse at Liberty (and Washington St.) or West (and the equivalent of Fulton St.), one could travel extensively through the site (actually, all the way up to Chambers St.!) using the concourse’s wonderful single-level, weather-protected pedestrian “streets.”

Although many seem to feel that the “Memorial Cloud” might allow for a great deal of connectivity — even more than the original W.T.C. — this memorial may not offer the connectivity that people believe it might.  For example, the information distributed by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. says that “this finalist must still detail how they would develop and support the translucent cloud of lights.”  If I read this correctly, it means that no one really knows how to actually build this thing yet.

All the focus on illusory connectivity obscures what I believe are some of the genuine anti-neighborhood and anti-city problems of all the finalists (with the possible exception — at least to some degree — of “Reflecting Absence”).  Having a memorial that is essentially a big open space, as all of these finalists essentially are, creates two big contextual problems.

When a memorial with this high a profile is not hidden from surrounding streets (as they could be, for instance, if they were placed atop an “elevated” plaza like the one the original W.T.C. had) it is likely to create a traffic magnet that will attract tour buses and drivers from the entire metro area to rubberneck along surrounding streets (especially West St.).  (Think of a year-round version of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.) Having a big open space, be it a street-level plaza or sunken pit creates an anti-urban barren streetscape along West and Liberty streets

Benjamin Hemric

Kindergarten admissions

To The Editor:
While I have found myself compelled to respond to other articles in our Downtown papers, particularly since 9/11, I have not. This is even when they burn deeply into my very core. But, here, I find myself chuckling (only somewhat) and responding to Jane Flanagan’s article in your November issue regarding pressures involved in applying to kindergarten for her 5-year-old (Children, Nov. 25 –Dec. 1, “Kindergarten pressures on parents and children”).

Like all of you, I too, went though this ritual. What a relief when my first son was accepted into our first choice school. It was an international school. The admission’s interview back then, (15 years ago), was a “group interview.” Yes, the parents where herded into the school library and set before them was the admission committee. I’m sure we even sat on little chairs. Parents where instructed to direct to the dais, (on their big chairs), as to why their child would benefit, fit in, enhance and charm the pants off the admissions committee once they met him/her.

In this international group of intellectual parents, I witnessed some very successful people having to somewhat publicly humiliate themselves. And, get this, not only were my son’s father and I not of an international background, or speak at least one foreign language at home, but we were the very last to get our chance to make our presentation.

I was the chosen one to give the pitch. (You see, even my son’s father,  “head honcho” of a major international corporation, was speechless). So, I started with: “Well, how can I compete with all the wonderful things I just hear from these parents? Why, if I were the admission’s director, I would enroll all of these amazing children. What can I possibly say about my child and our family? That we like Chinese food?”

Well, he got in. YES!  K thru 12 school. No more applications, testing, visits and interviews until college!

But, Ms. Flanagan, this did not actually pan out as planned. My good-looking, superior I.Q. son, without any behavioral issues, does have a learning issue.

Five schools later, and all the horrible interviews too, I am happy to report that my son, is now attending his first choice undergraduate school in Boston. This is after being accepted early in all three of his top choices.

Ms. Flanagan, my best advice to all parents is to never give up being your child’s advocate. Continue to make the time for him and let him know that you believe in him, even when you have your doubts. You will be amazed at what he will achieve despite the system.

By the way. it has been easier, so far, with “learning difference son” number two. He now is attending the eighth grade at a mainstream school.

Margaret Badali

Patting P.A. for PATH

To The Editor:
This proud citizen-taxpayer expresses heartfelt thanks to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on the occasion of the restoration of PATH train service, Sun., Nov. 23, 20003 (news article, Nov. 25 –Dec. 1, “PATH opens to tears and joy”).

With tears in my eyes and pride in my heart, I walked joyfully through the beautifully done station, exalting in the ability of the Port to execute a monumental task in sixteen months with the in-house talent of P.A.N.Y.N.J. chief architect Robert Davidson whose soaring entrance lifts the spirit. (Do we really need Mr. Santiago Calatrava?) I savored each and every photograph of my beloved city and read each and every clever Pentagram created panel of expressions of the fortunate who experienced time in the Capital of The Universe.

Congratulations Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for exhibiting to the whole world you take care of us. And for validating my faith and confidence since Sept. 11, 2001 that P.A.N.Y.N.J. would rebuild and restore.

God Bless you all, God Bless New York and God Bless America. Now….onward and upward.

Alice La Brie


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