More Seats for Lower Manhattan, But Not Right Away

Tuesday, November 01, 2011 - 04:13 PM

Nearly 200 seats will be added to an elementary school planned for Lower Manhattan, city Education Department officials announced on Tuesday, but that additional space in a neighborhood that sorely needs it will not become available until 2015.

In an amendment to the city's five-year capital construction plan, the Education Department announced plans to add two floors onto the Peck Slip building -- a facility now in use as a post office that is scheduled to open as a K-5 elementary school in September 2015.

Construction of the additional space will cost roughly $9 million, and officials estimate it will allow them to fit 180 extra students, bringing the total to 656. But initially, when the school opens kindergarten classes next fall in temporary space on the ground floor of the Tweed Courthouse, it will open with the same number of seats it planned to originally.

Education officials said this is because Tweed, which houses the city Education Department, does not have enough room for more students. Once the school moves into its new building at 1 Peck Slip, each grade will be expanded by a section. According to the city's capital plan, renovating the post office to make it suitable for a school building will cost the department about $76.5 million.

"As far as Peck Slip goes, I applaud the Department of Education for increasing it as much as possible," said Michael Markowitz, a member of District 2's community education council. "The projected shortfall is many times more than that, but every little bit helps."

The Peck Slip school's expansion will have an immediate effect on the city's proposed plans to rezone lower Manhattan, which currently do not take the addition of 180 seats into account. City officials said they will make changes to their proposals, something they intended to do anyway in response to some parents' unhappiness with the redrawn zoning lines, they said.

Plans to expand the Peck Slip school have been in discussion for months, pushed along in part by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose office helped identify the post office building as a site for a new school.

In another change to its $11.1 billion capital plan, the city is reducing technology spending in 2012 by $200 million and transferring half of that money to 2013 and the rest to 2014. This leaves the city with more than $352 million in its technology budget for 2012.

"Shifting $200 million in technology funding to FY2013 and FY2014 better positions us to do important infrastructure and technology work in a way that does not disrupt students and schools," said a Department of Education spokesman, Frank Thomas, in a statement.

City officials also said that by spreading the money over three years, they would have more time to evaluate projects and select the most promising ones.

In other changes to city school facilities, the department released plans on Tuesday to open two new Success Charter Network schools next fall. The city intends to have Success Academy Bed-Stuy 2 share a building with P.S. 59 William Floyd, an elementary school in Brooklyn.

In the Cobble Hill neighborhood, Brooklyn Success Academy Charter School 3 will open in a school building on Baltic Street that is now home to the Brooklyn School for Global Studies, the School for International Studies, and P.S. 368, a District 75 school for students with autism, mental retardation or other disabilities. (SchoolBook spoke to the principal of the Brooklyn School for Global Studies shortly after he heard the news.)

The founder of Success Charter Network, Eva Moskowitz, has said she plans to open a third new school in Brooklyn next year, but as of yet, the Education Department has not announced a location for the school.


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