Volume 76, Number 16 | September 6 - 12, 2006

Back to School

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Above from left: State Senator Martin Connor, Councilmember Alan Gerson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and District Leader David Weinberger. At right: Parent Cynthia Diaz interrupted the press conference, shouting: “It’s a betrayal. We’re being pushed to the side. It’s disgusting!” she said, waving her hand at the school.

P.S. 134 parents fume over generators and ongoing work

On Friday, local elected officials held a press conference in front of P.S. 134 at E. Broadway and Grand St. to express their concern that the building is not ready for the start of the school year and about the use of diesel generators to power the school temporarily.

The school is being upgraded because it is taking in the combined students from both P.S. 134 and P.S. 137, so that P.S. 184M, Shuang Wen Academy, a Chinese bilingual school, could open in P.S. 137’s old building this year.

The generators are being used while P.S. 134’s electrical system is being upgraded but parents are worried their children’s health is being put at risk by the generators spewing dangerous diesel particulates into the air. And the building is still shrouded in black netting.

Parent Marisol Rojas of Clinton St., a mother of four, confronted the officials, saying: “Our children struggle this year. Where are you putting my children at? The kids are nervous, they don’t want to come to school.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver declared that an environmental study for “dust, diesel and asbestos” should be done.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson said, “I can’t believe this has gone on this long.”

After the press conference, Silver, Gerson and State Senator Martin Connor tried to walk into the school to meet with school officials, and one woman did come out to meet them but was quickly called back to address an “emergency” and did not re-emerge. The politicians did eventually talk to the school officials, however, and remained for several hours.

Silver said, in response to their demands, the School Construction Authority has agreed to use ultralow-sulfur diesel fuel in the generators, do ongoing air dust and gas monitoring and install HEPA filters in the windows. The S.C.A. agrees the area already suffers from a high amount of school-age asthma because of a high amount of truck traffic.

“While the Board of Education made tremendous effort, the building wasn’t made student friendly,” said Silver. Silver said B.O.E. was remiss for not having the building ready in time for the start of the school year. As for the idea of combining the two schools to allow Shuang Wen to take over the former P.S. 137, Silver said he feels existing neighborhood schools shouldn’t be disrupted and displaced to accommodate new schools — and that capital funds received from Albany should instead be used to build buildings for new special schools.

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