Volume 22, Number 30 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 4 - 10, 2009
Millennium gym search goes back to school
By Julie Shapiro
Millennium High School’s search for gym space could end up right back where it started: inside the school’s building on Broad St.
The School Construction Authority suggested last week that Millennium’s L-shaped multipurpose room could be converted into a half-court gym. The proposal is far from a done deal — the S.C.A. has to study blueprints of the space to see if the construction is feasible — but if the space works it would mean the end of Millennium’s five-year battle for a gym.
“It would be enough for us to have practices and to teach team sports — all the things we want to do,” Millennium Principal Robert Rhodes said.
The school opened in 2003 in a Broad St. office building with no gym, but with plans to build one on the 34th floor once enough money came through. However, once Millennium amassed $2.25 million from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Councilmember Alan Gerson and the city, the city said the 34th-floor space was too high off the ground and was unsafe.
Gerson and Rhodes then launched a search for other potential gym spaces around Lower Manhattan, but the S.C.A. rejected all of their ideas, totaling about 15 spaces. Then, last week, at a meeting with Gerson, Rhodes and Millennium parents and students, the S.C.A. suggested the multipurpose room on the ground floor of Millennium’s building as an alternative.
“It’s probably our quickest solution,” said Erica Weldon, a Millennium parent. “But there are a lot of questions.”
To convert the space into a half-court gym, it would have to be expanded into adjacent storage closets. Structural columns may be in the way, and it could be challenging and expensive to move them, Weldon said. But she sounded confident that the school has enough money, since they won’t have to pay any extra to lease the space.
Will Havemann, spokesperson for the S.C.A., said the city would match the school’s funding for the gym, meaning that the project now has $4.5 million in the bank.
Gerson said the expanded multipurpose room is less than ideal for a gym, but it is better than nothing and would at least have room for team sports. Millennium’s teams now have to practice early in the morning in borrowed spaces, like the Chinatown YMCA.
Rhodes said he isn’t getting too excited until he hears from the S.C.A.’s architects.
“I’m optimistic that they met with us,” Rhodes said. “But that took months of parent pressure.”
The S.C.A. said they would get back to Millennium in a few weeks, Weldon said.
Just in case the multipurpose room doesn’t work, Millennium’s P.T.A. hired a retired F.D.N.Y. inspector to look at the 34th floor to find ways to bring it up to code and make it safe for students. However, the F.D.N.Y. said emphatically last year that the space would not work.
Havemann, with the S.C.A., said that if the multipurpose room does not go forward, “We will continue to look for a [gym] space that is both feasible and within budget.”
Even if Millennium gets its half-court gym, Weldon said parents would continue to push for a full-court gym with a running track somewhere in the Financial District. Gerson has suggested that such a gym could serve other small high schools Downtown, along with the new school seats in 26 Broadway, an office building that will likely house the Greenwich Village Middle School starting next fall.