Volume 79, Number 23 | November 11 - 17, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Smaller turnout at school hearing, but lots of anger

By Albert Amateau

A second and final hearing last week on the Department of Education’s plan to relocate Greenwich Village Middle School from its crowded Village school building to a new Financial District home attracted even fewer people than the first sparsely attended hearing the previous week.

Only three people signed up to testify at the 6 p.m. Tues., Nov. 4, hearing on the unpopular relocation plan. At the Oct. 29 hearing, six people testified.

Elected officials and neighborhood advocates said they were outraged at moving the middle school out of the Village. They also contended they did not receive adequate notice of the two hearings.

“It’s bizarre that the Greenwich Village Middle School will not be in Greenwich Village,” Keen Berger, a Village Democratic district leader and Community Board 2 member, told the Nov. 4 hearing. Testifying for C.B. 2, Berger said the board had unanimously resolved that 75 Morton St., a nearly vacant state-owned building, was the ideal location for the neighborhood middle school.

“We need a middle school in our community, and we strongly object to moving our only middle school to 26 Broadway,” Berger said.

Moreover, T. Elzora Cleveland, president of the District 2 Community Education Council, cast doubt on the legality of the hearing. She told Department of Education staff members who conducted the Nov. 4 hearing that hearings on matters like school utilization are required by law to be conducted jointly by D.O.E. and the appropriate district C.E.C.

“The C.E.C. should be up front in the hearings, not just invited to testify,” Cleveland told The Villager.

Matt Borden, chief of staff for Assemblymember Deborah Glick, submitted a letter signed by Glick and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler expressing concern that the moving of G.V.M.S. to the old Standard Oil building at 26 Broadway was planned despite assurances that D.O.E. was “serious about exploring 75 Morton St. site for acquisition.”

The letter, similar to one Glick submitted at the Oct. 29 hearing, said D.O.E. could acquire the Morton St. site permanently for $78 million, whereas the lease on the 26 Broadway location would cost the city $250 million for 30 years and the property would revert to the owner at the end of the period.

Camille Guigliano, parent of a student at P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village, said she only learned about the hearing 36 hours earlier.

She added that C.B. 2 should have been consulted on the proposed move. At the Oct. 29 hearing, Kate Seely-Kirk, an aide to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, said Quinn’s office was “dismayed” that they not been notified about the hearing.

It has been apparent for at least three years that the 100-year-old school on Hudson and Grove Sts., where G.V.M.S. is located on the fifth floor and P.S. 3 occupies the rest of the building, is severely overcrowded. D.O.E. has said the sixth and seventh floors of 26 Broadway would be ready to receive G.V.M.S. students in September 2010 allowing P.S. 3 to expand within its existing building. D.O.E. also has been saying it is still pursuing acquisition of 75 Morton St. but that the building could not be made ready for students before 2011.

Overcrowding is also a concern in the District 2 neighborhoods of Tribeca, Chelsea and the Upper East Side, as well as the Village.
Christine Sewell a parent of P.S. 11 on 21st St. in Chelsea told the Nov. 4 hearing that parents in Chelsea need a new home for the Clinton School of Writers and Artists, a middle school that shares the P.S. 11 building. P.S. 11 parents want more middle school venues and welcomed both the options at 26 Broadway and 75 Morton St., Sewell said.

The middle school space at 26 Broadway has 14 classrooms compared to nine that G.V.M.S. currently occupies at 490 Hudson St. There are 215 middle school students in the Village building, and 240 are expected at 26 Broadway next autumn. The Downtown location is also where the Urban Assembly High School of Business for Young Women opened on the fourth and fifth floors this year. In the future, 26 Broadway will have the capacity to accommodate 361 middle school students. Although the new middle school venue has a fitness room, it does not have a gym for team sports.

Tricia Joyce, an advocate for Tribeca schools who arrived at the Nov. 4 hearing after its speakers list was closed, said later that 26 Broadway and 75 Morton St. were separate issues. More middle school seats will be needed to satisfy the demand in the next few years throughout District 2, she said.

Joyce said the Bloomberg administration misjudged the overcrowding issue because the city’s consultants, the Grier Partnership of Bethesda, Md., had predicted student growth in 10 years that has occurred in one year. Even though the Grier Partnership is no longer engaged by the city, the administration is still underestimating the number of middle school children seeking admission to public schools, Joyce said.

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