Middle schools pitched for building at 75 Morton St.

Preliminary ideas for what kind of schools should go into a soon-to-be-vacant West Village building — and general issues surrounding the starting up of a new school building — were discussed at a meeting of the 75 Morton Task Force Jan. 24.
The task force is a joint initiative of Community Board 2 and the District 2 Community Education Council. According to a School Construction Authority official, a likely possible scenario for the building, 75 Morton St., between Hudson and Greenwich Sts., would be two middle schools, including a number of special education students. The 177,000-square-foot, seven-story building can accommodate 900 seats for students, of which S.C.A. would like 90 seats to be for special-ed students.
District 2 middle schools are typically not zoned, so the Morton St. building would likely draw a sizable number of students south of Canal St., where there are not many middle school choices.

The site is currently used by the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, which was supposed to have already vacated, but the move-out was delayed by Superstorm Sandy. As part of the approval last year of the Rudin residential redevelopment project for the former St. Vincent’s Hospital campus, the city agreed to buy 75 Morton St. from the state to help address the Village’s shortage of school seats.

However, C.B. 2 and C.E.C. members weren’t set on the S.C.A.’s preferred uses for the building, and are still considering different mixes of uses, notably including an elementary school.

Bob Ely, a neighbor who championed obtaining 75 Morton St. for a new school, said he felt, if there are to be two middle schools, an appropriate complementary use would be a good, small high school to be located in the building, along the lines of the Upper West Side’s Beacon School, which one of the middle schools could feed into.

A big concern of P.S. 3 parents is that they’d like students for the middle schools to be screened by geographical preference, meaning local kids would get first dibs. But, Ely said, as opposed to elementary schools, middle schools generally don’t work that way. District 2 covers a very broad area, stretching from the Battery to the Upper East Side.