Developers need an education about a window’s value

Is a window worth $1 million?

In New York City, views and light come and go with the whims of developers and the real estate market. A splendid vista one day can be obliterated in a matter of months, if not weeks, by a new building springing up. It’s one of the negative aspects of living in the city. It’s hard to describe the mix of feelings when a new high-rise apartment or office building that wasn’t there before is suddenly there, wiping out one’s view. For most, it’s a mix of feeling powerless, angry, frustrated. Frequently, lawsuits are filed, and sometimes succeed in reshaping the project so light and air can be preserved at least to some degree. It’s all part of life in the city.

On Orchard St., however, the situation is a bit different. Here, on a site adjacent to P.S. 42, a developer is seeking to build a seven-story building that will block the only window to speak of for a fifth-grade classroom inside which Allen Ng teaches 35 pupils.

It’s a large window, with three bays. The natural light shining through these glass panes helps Ng’s class in their reading and studies, lets them see what’s going on outside, observe whether it’s beautiful day, raining, snowing or windy and just enjoy a pleasure most of us take for granted — to be able to sit in a room with a view.

There are some other small windows in the classroom, but these are obscured by an air conditioner and they are high up where the 10- and 11-year-olds can’t really see out of them.

However, if, as the school, parents and local Councilmember Alan Gerson are asking, a planned setback for the adjacent residential project is shifted a bit, the precious window can be preserved. Getting back to the $1 million, this is what the developer claims this alteration of plans would cost. “Totally unreasonable,” one of the development partners said. But is it reasonable for small children to study in classrooms without natural light, like some sort of prison cell, to not be able to see outside to the street or sky, while their eyesight suffers and becomes impaired due to a lack of sunshine? That is most certainly not reasonable.

At any rate, the parents of the children have taken the case to court, and the matter is currently before State Supreme Court Justice Diane Lebedeff. A good Villager, Lebedeff has ruled wisely in past cases, such as when she helped preserve the High Line from demolition by developers and the Giuliani administration. She has explained some alternatives to the parents and developers, who will next come before her on Sept. 19.

To us, the matter seems clear, as clear, in fact, as that historic triple-bay window through which generations of Lower East Side school children have gazed and the sunlight has shone. That window must be preserved, or the developer gets an F — for failure to respect the rights of young school children to learn and live in a normal classroom.

To answer the question: Yes, sometimes a window is indeed worth $1 million.