Volume 78 - Number 49 / May 13 - 19 , 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

N.Y.U. says it can take four classes of pre-K children

By Albert Amateau

New York University President John Sexton told elected officials in a letter on Tuesday that he had good news for the parents of pre-kindergarten students in the neighborhood whom the Department of Education wants to displace in September to make room for incoming kindergarten children.

Sexton said the university has identified ground-floor space at the east end of Washington Square Village’s Building 2 at Mercer and W. Third Sts. that could accommodate four pre-K classrooms and two offices — about 5,500 gross square feet.

“We are prepared to begin work immediately on leasing the space to the Department of Education and to work with the School Construction Authority in the transformation of this space from apartments and a blood-donation facility into a pre-K facility,” Sexton said.

The letter was addressed to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmember Alan Gerson and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, with copies to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein; Sharon Greenberger, president of the School Construction Authority; Assemblymember Deborah Glick; State Senator Tom Duane, and the Public School Advocacy Committee, an advocacy group of Village parents.

Sexton said the time is short if the space is to be ready by September.

N.Y.U. would have to relocate residential spaces and the blood-donation center. The university would also have to find alternative space for a planned project to make the space available, Sexton said. Furthermore, there are special architectural and occupancy requirements that D.O.E., S.C.A. and the city would have to address. Sexton also said there may be zoning or special permit rules for superblocks to be addressed.

But the space is adjacent to the Mercer St. playground and lends itself to a dedicated Mercer St. entrance, Sexton said.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer welcomed the offer.

“This is a temporary solution for parents who have to know where to send their kids in September,” he said on Tuesday evening. “We’re not going to stop here, but this offer is a real shot in the arm.”

Stringer noted that he and local elected officials, including Quinn and Gerson, have been part of a task force exploring possible District 2 kindergarten locations.

“We reached out to N.Y.U. about the problem and I spoke to John Sexton by phone last Saturday [May 9],” Stringer said.

Sexton noted in his letter that during the past two years as N.Y.U. was engaged in its NYU Plans 2031 — a long-range planning initiative — many neighbors expressed keen concern about the need for more school space.

“Indeed, we committed last year to exploring the inclusion of space for a public school in our long-term plans,” Sexton said in his letter. “So please know that you have a full and willing partner in trying to ensure that neighborhood parents can have their children go to pre-K close to home.”

Last week, D.O.E. said it was considering moving pre-K classes out of the Village schools to open space for up to 75 of the 90 wait-listed kindergarten students in the Village area. Stringer said his understanding was that N.Y.U. might be able to take “70 or 80” pre-K students.

Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters executive director, said, “There are two half-day pre-K programs at P.S. 3, two half-day programs at P.S. 41 and one full-day pre-K at P.S. 3. There are 90 pre-K students total, 18 in each class, requiring three classrooms.”

A call to N.Y.U. seeking clarification on exactly how many pre-K students it would accept was not returned by press time.

Shino Tanikawa, a P.S. 3 parent and Public School Political Action Committee member, added, “It would be great if N.Y.U. could take a kindergarten class as well. Taking 65 additional kindergartners creates a serious safety concern at P.S. 3. Students must negotiate two flights of stairs to go to lunch, then two flights again to the yard. Moving close to 250 kindergartners and first graders in 45 minutes is extremely difficult.”

With reporting by Lincoln Anderson

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