Volume 23, Number 12 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 28 - August 3, 2010
New school at Peck Slip still a possibility
BY Michael Mandelkern
The Peck Slip Post Office, located between Pearl and Water Streets, is looking to sell the top half of its United States Postal Service-owned building. But the U.S.P.S. has yet to reach a final deal and the possibility remains for the New York City Department of Education to open a new public school at the location.
Last year the post office decided to limit its operations to its bottom two floors and to offer for sale the third and fourth floors, as well as possible air rights. It released a request for proposals to interested parties a few months ago.
“We could be more efficient,” said Darleen Reid, a U.S.P.S. spokesperson, in reference to Peck Slip’s mounting utility bills.
U.S.P.S.’s Realty Asset Management, a national company based in Washington, D.C., designates post offices that have excess space. According to Reid, changes made to Peck Slip won’t affect the employment of its employees.
No candidate has publicly disclosed whether it has submitted a proposal, but the NYC D.O.E. is “interested and cooperating with the Post Office’s process,” wrote Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, the NYC D.O.E.’s deputy press secretary, via e-mail. The New York City School Construction Authority has deemed it an “appropriate site.”
Community Board 1 Chair Julie Menin and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, have pushed for a new public school in the building.
Silver set up the School Overcrowding Task Force, which includes Parent Teacher Association members and principals in Lower Manhattan, and has been working with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer to identify space for a new school to ease the burden of overcrowding.
Silver’s approach is to persuade the U.S.P.S. to accept the D.O.E.’s bid, regardless of whether it is the most lucrative or not, in the interest of the community.
“School overcrowding is a top priority for me, and our success at opening new schools has been our greatest achievement… I have encouraged the Department of Education to try to acquire the property and I have been working with Senator Schumer’s office to facilitate that process. I believe a new school is the best use for the Peck Slip Post Office and I will do whatever I can to help make that a reality,” said Silver via e-mail.
State Senator Daniel Squadron, is also an active member of Silver’s School Overcrowding Task Force.
“As children, families and teachers know all too well, Lower Manhattan schools are already overcrowded, and this problem will only become worse in the next three years… I fully support transforming the old Peck Slip Post Office into a new school, and look forward to continue working with the School Construction Authority to make this proposal a reality,” said Squadron.
But Reid said the Post Office is “just like any business; we’ll look at the best deal.” She added, however, that the U.S.P.S. is “open to [a school].”
Zoning and landmark restrictions could halt potential structural developments at Peck Slip.
The building is zoned C6-2A with a maximum height of 120 feet and C6 zones generally permit large buildings intended for commercial use. But the Post Office lies within the South Street Historic District and is a landmarked site, giving the Landmarks Preservation Commission jurisdiction over any external alterations made to the building. Alterations to its entrance, bricks, windows and rooftop would require L.P.C. permission.
The Peck Slip Post Office was constructed 60 years ago and building occupation on that site dates back to over 100 years ago. Potential new owners would have to follow both zoning and landmark status guidelines.