Deal Reached to Buy a Greenwich Village Building for a City School

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MortonStreetCourtesy of Irene Kaufman The city's Education Department has agreed to buy 75 Morton Street, a state-owned building in Greenwich Village.

Nearly four years after West Village residents and elected officials began a campaign for a new school, the fliers, bullhorns and political maneuvering seem to have gotten results.

City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn announced on Wednesday that the city's Education Department had agreed to purchase a state-owned building on 75 Morton Street to be used for a new public school, a deal she helped broker.

City officials said they agreed to buy the building after the state lowered its price to $40 million from $78 million. The building now houses offices for the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, which is relocating.

The deal was announced along with news of an agreement between the city, state and Rudin development family to open a new emergency care center to replace the St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan, which closed last year.

Interest in opening a school in the Morton Street building gained momentum in 2008, when concern about overcrowding at some of Lower Manhattan's most coveted schools drew the attention of advocates and elected officials, including Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick, a Manhattan Democrat.

When the Empire State Development Corporation put the building up for sale, city officials expressed interest. But later that year, the state took the building off the market.

Meanwhile, more children were streaming into the neighborhood's public schools, causing the city to move the Greenwich Village Middle School -- now called the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School -- out of its space in Public School 3 Charrette to clear room for elementary school students.

"We don't have any middle schools," said Ann Kjellberg, a West Village parent who supported opening a school in the Morton Street building. "And the more people who saw the building, the more obvious it got that it should be one. It has an auditorium; it has open space; it has elevators."

City officials are mum on whether the seven story building will be a middle school, or when it will open.

"This purchase will provide us with needed additional educational space, leaving us with many options, including middle school seats which the community has long advocated for," Ms. Quinn said in a statement. "I look forward to working with both the DOE and community to determine how to best utilize the space and how to realize our goal."

As part of the agreement announced on Wednesday, the Rudin family is donating $1 million to three Greenwich Village public schools for arts programs, which now are largely supported by the schools' parent associations. The money is going to Public School 3, P.S. 41 Greenwich Village and the Foundling School, which is scheduled to open in 2014.