Volume 79, Number 03 | June 24 - 30, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

A middle school at Sports Museum is not a big hit

By Albert Amateau and Julie Shapiro

The city Department of Education last week offered Village parents another possible venue for the Greenwich Village Middle School.

The site, however, is at 26 Broadway in the Financial District where the Sports Museum of America closed earlier this year. Parents are eager to find space for G.V.M.S., which currently shares the overcrowded school building at 490 Hudson St. with P.S. 3, but they are reluctant to send their sixth graders out of the neighborhood.

Will Havermann, a D.O.E. spokesperson, confirmed on Wed., June 17, that the city was close to an agreement on the former Sports Museum space near Bowling Green and that the location would have room for the 220 Greenwich Village Middle School students.

Indeed, the Sports Museum has room for 1,000 school seats, according to Paul Goldstein, director of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s Lower Manhattan District Office.

Rebecca Daniels, president of the District 2 Community Education Council, which covers the Village as well as Lower Manhattan, Chelsea and the Upper East Side, said that while the Downtown location is far from the West Village, G.V.M.S. parents would have to consider it as a possibility. Daniels said the District 2 C.E.C. would meet with G.V.M.S. and Clinton School parents this week about 26 Broadway.

“The ideal place would be 75 Morton St., which is not completely off the table,” Daniels said, referring to the state-owned building three blocks from the Village middle school’s present location. Village parents and elected officials identified the Morton St. building nearly two years ago as a potential middle school space, but the facility has possible code problems and would require extensive renovation. The transfer of part of the building from state to city ownership was also uncertain, and the space might not be available for two years.

Daniels said that John White, the D.O.E. official who has been dealing with overcrowding in District 2, suggested last week that 26 Broadway could accommodate the Greenwich Village Middle School and the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, the latter being a middle school that shares space with P.S. 11 in an overcrowded school building on W. 21st St. between Eighth and Ninth Aves. in Chelsea.

Daniels noted that there are already four middle schools in Lower Manhattan and only one in Greenwich Village. She suggested that alternate space for G.V.M.S. could be found in Legacy High School at 34 W. 14th St., where a middle school on the state’s Schools Under Registration Review, or SURR, list of failing schools is also located and scheduled to close.

“It would make more sense, because it’s in the Village,” Daniels observed of the Legacy High School space.

Ann Kjellberg, a Village parent and member of the Public School Parents Advocacy Committee (P.S.P.A.C), said, “It’s great for there to be a middle school down there [at 26 Broadway], but we need a middle school in our neighborhood and G.V.M.S. was founded as a middle school for the Village. Having schools in your neighborhood is a reasonable expectation.”

Kjellberg said P.S.P.A.C. was disappointed last week when Mayor Bloomberg won half a victory in his campaign for mayoral control of the city’s schools when the state Assembly voted to extend the 2002 measure.

P.S.P.A.C. and other parent organization have been demanding more parent input in the school system, and lobbied against the mayoral control extension, which is stalled in the dysfunctional state Senate.

The Assembly, however, voted 121 to 18 on June 17 in favor of the bill sponsored by Speaker Silver. But all 18 dissenting votes came from city legislators.

“Assemblymember Deborah Glick did us proud by voting against the bill that continues mayoral control without the addition of meaningful checks and balances,” Kjellberg said of Glick, who represents Greenwich Village.

Mayoral control expires at the end of this month if it is not renewed, and State Senator Daniel Squadron became the first Democratic sponsor this week of the Senate bill, which is one of the issues that prompted Governor Paterson on June 23 to call the Senate into special session.

State Senator Tom Duane told The Villager that he thought mayoral control was “a fait accompli.” However, he said he tried to get a shorter renewal period than the six years in the Assembly bill.

“We also have to find a better way to get parents more influence on the Panel for Education Policy [the governing body of the Department of Education] and empower parents citywide,” Duane said.

P.S.P.A.C. also vainly urged the City Council last week to defeat the five-year school capital plan, saying that it was based on a grossly underestimated school enrollment and would result in overcrowded classrooms.

But Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a letter to school advocates that a “no” vote would leave no time to come up with a new plan by the June 30 deadline for renewal of mayoral control. She also said the City Council had to vote “yes” or “no” and could not approve parts of the plan and disapprove others.

The capital plan was approved last week with only 9 dissenting votes, including Alan Gerson, who represents the First Council District covering Lower Manhattan and the South Village, and Robert Jackson of Northern Manhattan, who is chairperson of the Council’s Education Committee.

“We applaud their courage and integrity for standing up for New York City children so that they can eventually receive their constitutional right to an adequate education,” Kjellberg said.

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