Financial District site still eyed for middle school

By Albert Amateau

The Department of Education on July 28 affirmed that 26 Broadway, an office building near Bowling Green, is the top choice for a new Greenwich Village Middle School for the 2010 school year. But parents of the school in the overcrowded building on Hudson St. wish there were other options.

“We remain disappointed that the D.O.E. has not been able to come up with space in the Village — and at the same time, we do not want to be temporarily located, only to be moved again in a year or two,” Lisa Bernhard, a G.V.M.S. parent and leader of the school’s parent-teacher association, said last week.

“On the other hand, 26 Broadway is a newly renovated facility that will offer our kids a comfortable, spacious place to learn. Believe me, that’s got to be better than where we are now,” Bernhard added, referring to the over-capacity building at Hudson and Grove Sts. in the Village that the middle school has been sharing for a decade with P.S. 3.

John White, head of the D.O.E. Office for Portfolio Development, said the proposal to renovate the sixth and seventh floors of 26 Broadway for the Village middle school made sense. The space could be ready for students by the opening of school in September 2010 and would be a long-term solution, not for just a year or two, he explained.

Of the 222 students currently enrolled in G.V.M.S., only 18 live in the Greenwich Village district, whose zoned elementary schools are P.S. 3 and P.S. 41, said White. The others are from Chelsea and Chinatown, and some are from the Tribeca district zoned for P.S. 234 and P.S. 89, he said.

Most of the city’s middle schools are not zoned and can accept students from any neighborhood in the district. District 2, however, is very large and includes Lower Manhattan, Chinatown, the Village, Chelsea, Clinton and the Upper East Side.

Bernhard said that parents who sent their children to G.V.M.S. made their decisions on several factors.

“For some people, the neighborhood was a significant draw,” Bernhard said.

Parents of G.V.M.S. students have looked at other options, Bernhard said. But they found that Bayard Rustin on W. 18th St was fully committed and P.S. 33 on W. 27th St.  “was not a great location for us” and was being considered for a new location for the Clinton School for Writers and Artists. Bernhard acknowledged that the Legacy School on E. 14th near Fifth Ave. was phasing out its middle school but not the high school.

However, District 2 Community Education Council members noted last week that the state-owned building at 75 Morton St. has been the community’s preference for more than a year.

During the past year, elected officials, including state Senator Tom Duane, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, have been urging state and city officials to make two floors of 75 Morton St. available for a neighborhood school. But Bernhard said it became clear to her that the building would not be ready by the beginning of the school year in 2010.

“The elevators need replacing, asbestos needs to be dealt with and a state office would have to move,” Bernhard said. “And if that is indeed the case, I think 75 Morton might still be a possible school location, just not in time for G.V.M.S.”

Rebecca Daniels, outgoing president of the District 2 C.E.C., said last week that she still believes 75 Morton St. could be ready for school use by 2010 if political will were there. She noted that D.O.E. was able to lease the Our Lady of Good Counsel School on E. 90th St. and intends to have it ready in three months in time for the 2009 school year. 

“That involved dealing with the archdiocese, and it wasn’t an easy thing to do,” Daniels said.

White said last week that he intended to raise the subject of the Village middle school at the next District 2 Community Education Council meeting on Aug. 12.

Mary D. Silver, member of the District 2 C.E.C. said, “I don’t think the current parent body of G.V.M.S. was looking to turn the school into the Financial District Middle School. And because District 2 is going through a near-comprehensive makeover involving school relocations, new construction and zoning issues to accommodate overcrowding and population growth, we need to approach such moves collectively. We’ve got to approach the District 2 map strategically.”

Last week Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein were jubilant at the state Senate’s 47-to-8 renewal on Aug. 6 of mayoral control of the city school system until June 2015. Amendments providing an independent training center for parents, a stronger role for district superintendents, a new state Senate oversight of the Panel on Education Policy, independent auditing of achievement data and a requirement that C.E.C.’s reserve seats for parents of English-language learners and special-education students, will require a vote by the Assembly before school starts.

Nevertheless, the Parents Commission on School Governance, a group that demanded that the mayor share school control with parents, said it was disappointed in the state Senate action despite the amendments that the group has approved.

The group issued a statement saying the bill would provide “insufficient checks and balances to continued autocratic mayoral control and unwise educational policies.” Parents would still not have a real voice in the school system, the statement said, noting, “Community Education Councils, School Leadership Teams and public school parents in all areas of the city will remain largely powerless.”

The group thanked the eight state senators, including Tom Duane and Bill Perkins, both of Manhattan, who voted against the Senate bill.

Additional reporting by Julie Shapiro