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Volume 77, Number 23 | November. 07 -,13 2007

Children’s Liberation parents and tots corral mayor

By Albert Amateau

The parents and kids of Children’s Liberation Daycare Center who are struggling to remain in the old P.S. 122 building they share with three arts and performance groups took their cause right to Mayor Bloomberg on Monday.

A group from the daycare on First Ave. and E. Ninth St. marched three blocks uptown to P.S. 19 where Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein scheduled a major news conference to release the city’s first progress report on the city’s public schools.

The daycare delegation, led by Elizabeth Acevedo, a member of the Children’s Liberation board of directors, was herded to the end of the block, away from the school’s main entrance, and chanted “Mayor Mike, listen to us,” and “Save our daycare.”

It got so loud about 10:30 a.m. that a P.S. 19 teacher came out of the school and told them to hold it down, which they did.

When Bloomberg arrived shortly before 11 a.m. he walked right over to the Children’s Liberation delegation to hear a torrent of complaints about the city’s plan to move them out of the building during a planned renovation and keep them out after the project is completed.

Bloomberg said he would look into the situation with the city agencies that oversee the building, but he went on to say that children shouldn’t be in a building that has asbestos.

Acevedo said later that day that Children’s Liberation daycare had been in that building and the adjacent outdoor playground for more than 26 years. About five years after Children’s Liberation moved into 150 First Ave. with three arts and performance groups, the city undertook a six-month asbestos abatement project in the basement.

Nevertheless, Bloomberg’s two minutes with the Children’s Lib delegation in front of P.S. 19 surely pleased the children, who chanted, “Thank you, Mike,” when he left them to go to the news conference.

But the daycare’s efforts to stay in the building took a severe blow a week ago. On Oct. 30, the Administration for Children’s Services, which oversees federally funded daycare centers, notified Arthur Schwartz, Children’s Liberation’s lawyer, that the agency will terminate its contract and funding for the daycare as of Jan. 4, 2008.

The cancellation was under the “no cause” provision of the standard A.C.S. contract with city-funded daycare centers.

Earlier in October, Schwartz had gone before State Supreme Court Justice Kibbie F. Payne seeking a temporary restraining order against beginning any construction that would force Children’s Liberation to leave the building or taking any action to force Children’s Liberation out of the building. But Payne ruled there was no immediate threat that the daycare would be shut out of the building and denied the T.R.O. but set a Nov. 28 hearing for a permanent resolution to the dispute.

The Oct. 30 memo that A.C.S. was canceling its contract with Children’s Liberation was a shock to the staff and parents.

“We went to court the next day with the city’s lawyer to tell the judge what happened,” Schwartz said on Monday. The city agreed to submit the dispute to the comptroller and then to a dispute-resolution panel composed of an A.C.S. representative, a special court-appointed judge and someone not connected to any city agency chosen by A.C.S. and the special judge.

“I hope the Comptroller’s Office can resolve the issue,” said Schwartz. “If Children’s Liberation is forced to leave the building there would be no city-funded affordable daycare between 14th and Houston Sts. and between Avenue D and Fifth Ave.,” he said.

The city recently offered the daycare center two adjacent alternate sites south of Houston St., but the daycare’s initial response was that it did not want to relocate.


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