Volume 80, Number 25 | November 18- 24, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
C.B. 2 members want public school, not N.Y.U. mega-plan
By Albert Amateau
Members of Community Board 2’s Institutions and Education committees demanded on Tuesday that New York University make good on its longstanding promise to provide space for an elementary-grade public school.
Gary Parker, N.Y.U. director of government and community affairs, acknowledged the university’s commitment to a future 600-seat, kindergarten-to-fifth-grade public school at one of two locations in either the university-owned south superblock between Bleecker and West Houston Sts. or its north superblock between W. Third and Bleecker Sts.
The two superblocks, slated for massive redevelopment as part of the N.Y.U. 2031 plan, will undergo the city’s uniform land use review procedure, or ULURP, beginning next year, and the school space would be part of the review, Parker said.
But David Gruber, chairperson of the C.B.2 Institutions Committee, and Keen Berger, chairperson of the board’s Education Committee, argued relentlessly at the Nov. 16 meeting that the university’s gift of public-school space should not be tied to a ULURP for up to 2.2 million square feet of university development on the two superblocks.
Jo Hamilton, C.B. 2 chairperson, conceded that public-school space is desperately needed in the Village’s crowded School District 2.
“But that does not mean we have to accept a 40-story hotel,” said Hamilton, referring to the N.Y.U application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for approval of a proposed 400-foot-tall building on the landmarked Silver Towers superblock.
“We’ve been hoping that N.Y.U. would donate school space, but could it be outside the superblocks?” pleaded Berger.
Parker said he would carry the message to the higher levels of N.Y.U., however, he did not waver from the position that the school space was tied to the superblocks. One possible site for the school is the current retail strip along LaGuardia Place between W. Third and Bleecker Sts. on the north superblock. Another would be in what N.Y.U. is calling “The Zipper Building” proposed for the current site of the university’s Coles gymnasium, along the Mercer St. side of the south superblock between Bleecker and West Houston Sts.
“We need a resolution,” Parker told the committee members. “You could suggest that you don’t want the school space on the superblocks,” he added.
“There will be a resolution, but that’s not the way we’re going to write it,” said Berger, showing her vexation at the challenge.
Gruber was also angry.
“I did not like what you said about our resolution,” he said. “You don’t pay taxes; you owe something to the neighborhood that you’re part of,” he told N.Y.U representatives.
“We will work with you, whether you like it or not,” Berger said.
Assemblymember Deborah Glick spoke about the neighborhood’s three-year-old hope that the state-owned building at 75 Morton St. could be sold “at a reasonable price” to the city for school use.
“I remain an optimist,” she said, noting, however, that the city has not made a commitment to the Morton St. building, even though it has enough space for an elementary school.
“N.Y.U. should join the community effort to make 75 Morton St. a new school,” said Glick. “I’ll suggest it to John Sexton,” she said, referring to N.Y.U.’s president.
Michael Mirisola, a former Community Board 2 member currently on the staff of the School Construction Authority, the city agency that builds public schools, told the Nov. 16 meeting that S.C.A. has looked at 75 Morton St. and found it suitable for conversion to elementary and middle-school use.
“But I’ve heard that it is not available,” Mirisola added.