Volume 20, Number 35 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 12 - 18, 2010
Department of Education to decide fate of 26 Broadway and Millennium High
BY John Bayles
A hearing held last week on the Department of Education’s proposal to move the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching from East 88th Street to 26 Broadway in Lower Manhattan might have been pointless. It’s very possible the D.O.E. has already made up its mind.
Since the city D.O.E. announced their proposal in the fall to give the open space in the building, which also houses the Lower Manhattan Middle School, to Richard R. Green in lieu of a proposal to have Millennium High expand into the building, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has launched an old-fashioned advocacy campaign on behalf of his district. But beyond the role of advocate, the Speaker’s opinion could be of little influence.
“The D.O.E. has stated publicly that their position is to move Richard R. Green into the space,” said Jason Fink, a spokesperson for Silver. “What we’re trying to do is to get them to change their mind.”
But Fink also noted that Silver has no power when it comes to the D.O.E.’s position on the matter. On January 19 the Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the proposal.
At the heart of the debate is the severe school overcrowding issue that has plagued Lower Manhattan for the last two years. Education advocates fought to secure 26 Broadway under the impetus that it would house new schools for the Lower Manhattan population. Millennium High’s proposal to expand into the building would satisfy that criteria; having a school such as Richard R. Green move in, and relocating students that do not live in Lower Manhattan, would not.
At last week’s hearing, Paul Goldstein, a representative from Silver’s office, delivered remarks on behalf of the Speaker.
“Over the past several years, I have led the fight to combat school overcrowding and create more educational opportunities for parents and their children in Lower Manhattan,” Silver wrote. “One of the great recent success stories Downtown has been Millennium High School, a top-notch educational institution that has attracted many local families and played a key role in this neighborhood’s recovery after 9/11. Today, I am asking the Department of Education to allow Millennium to expand into space it leases at 26 Broadway. School space in Lower Manhattan ought to serve the population of Lower Manhattan and there remains a pressing need for new classroom space in this neighborhood.”
Tricia Joyce, who serves on Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee, was unhappy with how the D.O.E. handled the hearing. She said parents and students from Richard R. Green showed up without full knowledge of the situation.
“They had no information about 26 Broadway nor its history and attachment to our community,” said Joyce. “They just know that they’re in a desperate situation and that this space is available.”
Joyce pointed out that Richard R. Green is facing the same overcrowding issues as Lower Manhattan and that when the D.O.E. holds such a hearing, it usually ends up pitting two communities and two school bodies against one another, a situation she described as unfortunate.
Joyce said due to remarks in the press by some Lower Manhattan parents prior to the hearing, Richard R. Green students and parents showed up in an attempt to prove themselves “worthy” of occupying the space.
“Of course they are worthy,” said Joyce. “All students are worthy of having a school.”
Joyce said what is needed is for the issue to be “quantified by people who understand in both of communities what it means.”
Speaker Silver will hold another meeting of his School Overcrowding Task Force this Thursday at his offices at 250 Broadway. Fink said the 26 Broadway issue will certainly be discussed. The D.O.E. is proposing that Millennium High open a new campus in Brooklyn instead of expanding into 26 Broadway.