Downtown’s middle school hopes raised, quickly dashed

By Ronda Kaysen

Community Board 1 members have their eye on a new school in the Department of Education’s capital budget and hope to use it as a zoned middle school for West Side kids; only the department has other plans for the school.

The department’s capital budget includes funding for four new schools, among them a $51.34 million K-8 slated for 10th Ave. between 37th and 38th Sts. near the Hudson Rail Yards. But after a recent meeting with officials from the department’s Region 9, C.B. 1 members felt confident that the school may very well morph into a zoned 600- to 800-seat middle school that would have room for Downtowners.

“We appreciate that the region has embraced our cries for more middle school seats,” said Paul Hovitz, chairperson of the C.B. 1 Youth and Education Committee. “We would like to see a middle school located in C.B. 1.” Hovitz and other C.B. 1 members met with Mario Guzman, deputy superintendent of Region 9, two weeks ago to discuss the matter.

C.B. 1 members suggested placing the school in Greenwich Street South, an area near the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel entrance that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has targeted for improvements. “We suggested Greenwich South and the region is willing to consider it,” said Hovitz. “They’re open to the possibility of other sites.”

Although officials with Region 9 may be open, the Education Department — which oversees the regions — has no intention of heading south or creating a new zoned middle school, for that matter. “[The Dept. of Ed.] is not looking at any sites in Greenwich South (below the W.T.C.) as being a location for the school,” wrote a department spokesperson in an email to Downtown Express. “It was in fact the recommendation of Community Board 1 that no more schools be built in Lower Manhattan west of Broadway.”

But the community has voiced a need for a zoned middle school for its kids. In response to a public town hall meeting last April where scores of parents expressed a need for additional middle school seats for the their children, the board passed a resolution supporting the request. The current zoned middle school is the Simon Baruch School on E. 21st St.

Many parents and C.B. 1 members who attended last week’s meeting felt a zoned middle school on 10th Ave. would be an easier commute than Baruch, but the Education Dept. is planning a K-8, which is unlikely to have much, if any, room for students living on Downtown’s West Side.

The school the department does plan to build will be a 630-seat K-8 grade school and break ground in June 2009. The north Chelsea location was chosen in response to the West Chelsea Rezoning plan, which was approved by City Council last week.

Both deputy superintendent Guzman and superintendent Peter Heaney declined to comment for this story.


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