Volume 17, Number 39 | February 17-23, 2005

P.S. 234 wrestles with overcrowding, noise issues

By Ronda Kaysen

Life at P.S. 234 is about to get very noisy, and it has nothing to do with rambunctious school children. With work at neighboring Site 5C already underway, what was once a sleepy, cobblestone corner of Tribeca will transform into a busy construction site when workers begin steel sheeting, a loud drilling process similar to pile driving.

But construction brings new buildings, and this new building will include a much-needed annex for the overcrowded school, creating a conundrum for parents and school officials concerned about school-year noise disruptions and also eager to get more classrooms.

“It’s going to be noisy no matter how you slice it,” Sandy Bridges, principal of P.S. 234, told Downtown Express. “I will say that we also have a vested interest in this building being built now because we’re so incredibly overcrowded and I need the space.”

With more than 700 students enrolled in a school with a capacity for 585, P.S. 234 has been battling a growing overcrowding problem in recent years. The 10,000 sq. ft. annex will add six new classrooms, which translates to space for 150 additional students.

The site’s developer, Scott Resnick, told school representatives at a Feb. 4 closed meeting that construction on the project — 300-foot and 285-foot buildings on West St., and two 85-foot buildings on Chambers and Warren Sts. — will be loud at times. “I said ‘How loud will it be?’ and [Resnick] said, ‘Don’t worry it will be loud,’” said Bridges. “The essential gist that I got from my meeting is that there will be noise, there’s no way to avoid that.” The school’s air filtration system and windows, installed after Sept. 11, 2001, will help mitigate any noise and dust from the construction, she added.

Bridges said the noisiest part of the construction is likely to begin in a few months, close to the summer vacation. Bridges is concerned about delaying construction because she hopes the annex opening in Sept. 2007 will relieve the overcrowding problems.

Annex or no annex, some parents are concerned that construction directly opposite their children’s school will hamper learning. “To do it [the steel sheeting] in the summer may result in some sort of delay, but so what? We’re talking about the learning environment of our children,” said John Jiler a P.S. 234 parent who attended the Feb. 4 meeting.

Gerson, however, insists that steps can – and will – be taken to make certain that learning is not hampered. “We put in the agreement a requirement that there be a negotiated community friendly time schedule for the construction, and that includes the school,” he said, speaking of the agreement drafted last year by Gerson and Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff that made way for the annex as part of a Downtown redevelopment project. “So we’re going to hold the administration and the developers feet to the fire to fulfill that.”

“There has to be a significant time during each day without noise intrusion and it cannot be nonstop hammering throughout the day,” Gerson said. He suggested Resnick hire a noise expert to address the issue and plans discuss changes to the schedule and noise abatement concerns at the Friday meeting.

“If they don’t respond we will take whatever action we have to take to delay the project,” he said, including legal action, if necessary. “I hope it does not come to that.”

A Gerson aide said a few weeks ago that the construction could close the adjacent dog run for over a year, but that is not under consideration.

Scott Resnick did not return repeated calls for comment for this story.

Regardless of how the noise concerns play out, Resnick closed the deal with the city on the sale of the site last week, and construction will soon be underway in earnest. “Everybody’s concerned about the noise, and the question is what we can do to mitigate it,” said Kevin Fisher, president of the P.S. 234 P.T.A. “The fact is that there’s a building going up, regardless of what are thoughts about it are.”


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