Thursday, February 28, 2013

City to Tear Down Three Public Schools for Luxury Towers

The city is planning to knock down three public schools in Manhattan to make way for privately developed, luxury apartment towers — a plan that has infuriated parents and education officials. The Department of Education's Educational Construction Fund posted a request for interested developers, offering up three "prime development sites" in Manhattan, without mentioning the fact that they are presently being used to educate elementary and high school students.

The Department of Education's Educational Construction Fund posted a request for interested developers, offering up three "prime Manhattan development sites" at 210 West 61st St.  and 270 West 70th St. - home to P.S. 191 and P.S. 199, as well as the School of Technical Education at 321 East 96th St., which serves 11th and 12th-graders.

Developers can apply to buy all three school buildings or just one of them, officials said.

The formal 'Request For Expressions of Interest' lauded the coveted sites as being "located within neighborhoods exhibiting exceptionally strong residential market fundamentals" and added that, the sites "are among the few remaining chances to build large projects" on the Upper West Side and East Side of Manhattan.

Students would be relocated during construction, and the developer would have to build a new school in the base of the new towers.

PS 199 has 850 students and PS 191 has 550, and unsurprisingly, parents are not happy about the prospect of switching school buildings.

"Kicking students out of their home school is not a gentle process. There will be an immediate negative impact on learning," said Laurie Frey of the District 3 Community Education Council.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in a letter that he has heard from many parents from all three schools concerned about whether "their school will be demolished," and "where the Department of Education will send the children, teachers and staff whose buildings it has torn down."

At a recent meeting, the director of the Educational Construction Fund, reassured parents that sale of the schools would be subject to review by the City Council.

That public review would begin in May, once the city has selected a developer for the project, and then construction would take about two years.

If the city decides to move forward with this plan, demolition and construction could start as soon as 2015.

The schools would be relocated, and the Request for Expressions of Interest says that developers should consider relocation sites in their proposals.

Developers are allowed to submit plans for one site or all three, and new schools would be built within the towers. Presently, twelve developers have expressed interest in purchasing the sites.