City appears bullish on ‘incubator’ school near Wall St.

The Department of Education appears to be moving away from opening a middle school at 26 Broadway and now wants to put 250 elementary seats there instead.

That was the message parents heard Tuesday at the overcrowding meeting held at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office. The idea is to create a temporary “incubator” school in 26 Broadway, holding the kindergarten and first-grade students who will later move to the new schools on Beekman St. and at Site 2B in Battery Park City in 2010, if they open on time. That would ease the crunch at P.S. 89 and P.S. 234, which face record enrollments.

But Carolyn Happy and Sheila Schmidt, co-presidents of the P.S. 89 P.T.A., do not want young children going to 26 Broadway, in the middle of the Financial District and beside the New York Stock Exchange. They say the converted office building does not have the makings of an elementary school — it lacks a gym and a cafeteria, and it has no outdoor yard space. They are also concerned that the incubator will share a building with a high school and commercial offices.

“It makes me furious,” Happy said. “I don’t get it at all. It’s a business building with a high school in it — why would you push for little itty bitty kids to be in there?”

Silver, who was up in Albany during the overcrowding meeting, echoed the parents’ fears.

“It’s legitimate that parents are concerned, and they should be concerned…especially for young children,” he told Downtown Express.

The D.O.E. is moving the 450-seat Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women to 26 Broadway in fall 2009. Earlier this year, the D.O.E. announced that 26 Broadway would have an extra 250 seats for local kids, also opening in fall ’09, and the D.O.E. floated the idea of using the seats either as an incubator or for middle school kids. Happy and Schmidt think a middle school is a much better option.

Of the incubator school, Schmidt said, “I don’t think it’s a bad idea — I just don’t think [26 Broadway] is the right location.”

She and Happy want the incubator to go in the Cove Club condo building, where the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy is vacating some space this February. The D.O.E. recently toured the Cove Club, and the School Construction Authority is going to take a closer look at the building plans to see how much work the space would need to be converted into classrooms, Silver and Happy said.

“There’s no reason why we can’t make the Cove Club work,” Silver said.

Will Havemann, spokesperson for the D.O.E., said the city has not decided between a middle school and an elementary incubator at 26 Broadway. He said the D.O.E. would not likely announce a decision on the Cove Club space until its next capital plan in February.

–Julie Shapiro