Joy and questionsabout new school
Last Fridays Downtown school victory may not have 1,000 fathers and mothers but its sure no orphan either. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Councilmember Alan Gerson, Madelyn Wils and Community Board 1, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg stand out among the many who deserve credit for the announcement that Lower Manhattan will get a much-needed East Side school in Sept. 2008.
The school will be on what is now a parking lot near NYU Downtown Hospital a site where developer Bruce Ratner expects to build a 75-story tower designed by architect Frank Gehry. With the population explosion continuing in Lower Manhattan, a school is essential to insure Downtowns stability.
The addition of 600 elementary and middle school seats appears to be enough for the foreseeable future. Even though there is still post-9/11 money out there that will likely be used for the school, Downtowners should nevertheless be appreciative that the mayor saw fit to give his approval in these austere times.
The new school raises zoning questions that the mayors Education Dept. needs to begin studying and discussing with the community soon. Lower Manhattan does not have a zoned middle school now and it is not clear it will once the new school is built. Downtowners have no more claim to attend I.S. 89 in Battery Park City than a student living on the Upper East Side. The zoned middle school for Lower Manhattan on E. 21st St. is close to an hour away for many students.
A new K-8 provides an opportunity to reexamine the zoning for all Lower Manhattan schools and guarantee a middle school place close to home for all Downtowners. Gerson and others have asked the Dept. of Ed to study this closely.
There may be some merits to the Dept. of Eds providing students lots of small middle school choices around the city, but it is not unreasonable for parents to expect the ability to keep their pre-teens within walking distance. Many parents have left Downtown because this choice has not been available.
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein will serve no one by kicking this can down the road further and he would be wise to advise his staff to begin discussions about the best zoning options for Downtown.
Cablevisions recent offer to buy the Hudson Yards development rights for $600 million was immediately dismissed by Mayor Bloomberg as a stunt. However, on the face of it, that Cablevision is offering hundreds of millions more than the Jets for the property should not be brushed off as a stunt certainly not in the minds of New York City straphangers concerned about fare hikes and under funding of the transit systems capital improvement program.
Last week, we called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to begin an open bidding process to ensure they get market value for the yards and we are pleased to hear that M.T.A. chairperson Peter Kalikow agrees. He is taking a close look at the Cablevision offer and encouraging others to bid.
Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff suggested to the New York Times that he was willing to put up zoning roadblocks to the Cablevision plan. Doctoroff has been working to get the Olympics to New York for years. It may be an admirable goal but his bias is clear if he is suggesting wielding city zoning laws as a weapon to devalue a competing proposal.