Jonathan Pelto reflects on the latest educational reform: Tearing down schools and replacing them with luxury apartment buildings.
Closing in on Rahm Emanuel’s title as “Emperor” when it comes to closing public schools…
True, few, if any can compete with Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel when it comes to the unprecedented effort to destroy public education by closing public schools, New York’s Michael Bloomberg covets the title and is making a dash to catch up with Emanuel’s unholy track record.
Call it the New York City School Closing Scheme 2.0 – The Bloomberg Way
The notion is built on the concept that why should we simply close neighborhood public schools when private developers can makes tens of millions in the process.
Earlier today, the education blogger extraordinaire, EduShyster, ripped away the veil to reveal the harsh light of truth on the school closing scheme being led by Bloomberg and his corporate education reformers.
As EduShyster wrote, “When we last checked in with our rich friends, they were flush with cash and aflurry with many excellent ideas for saving our failed and failing public schools. Now, with the stock market ascendant and corporate profits at an all time high, these generous benefactors are themselves rising to new heights of generosity and excellence. Today’s outstanding idea is brought to us (and to our failing schools) by the rich of New York City who have come up with an idea so bold, so transformative, so disruptive that we have no choice but to raise our glasses to them.”
The details of the scheme can be found in the prospectus produced by the Bloomberg Administration’s “Global Leader in Real Estate” agent who begins by announcing, “On behalf of the New York City Educational Construction Fund CBRE is pleased to offer for your consideration three prime development sites, two of which are located on the upper West Side, and one on the Upper East Side. The three sites are truly special opportunities as the present sizable developments within submarkets having limited available land for any substantial development…They are among the few chances remaining to build large projects in their respective neighborhoods.”
Using the concept of a whole lot of pictures printed on high quality paper is worth a lot more than a thousand words; the “request for expressions of interest” is definitely worth a look.
Beyond their prime Manhattan locations, what makes these sites “special opportunities?”
Property number #1 is the site of PS 191, also known as the Museum Magnet School. Although traditionally a “low-performing school” educating mostly poor Black and Hispanic children, many of whom live in the Amsterdam Housing project across the street, a three-year, multi-million federal grant has been transform the school into an innovate educational institution that is working in tandem with Lincoln Center and more than 90 of New York’s museums and cultural institutions.
Property #2 is the mostly-white, traditionally high performing PS 199, which is located just a few blocks from PS 191. As one of the most highly regarded elementary schools in New York, the biggest problem facing PS 199 is the lack of sufficient space for all of the students who wish to attend.
And Property #3 now houses the School for Cooperative Technical Education, a first-rate institution that has been successfully providing a diverse population of 17-20 year olds with the career & technical education courses they need to pursue careers in 17 technical and trade fields.
While millions have been spent to renovate these three schools in recent years, the Bloomberg Administration quietly asked New York City’s finest developers whether they would be interested in tearing down these schools and building multi-million dollar, high-rise luxury towers. The only requirement is that the developers provide some space in the basement and/or lower floors for a school to move into space below the upscale residential buildings.
In the meantime, the public school students would be moved to temporary swing space and, depending on the type of schools developed at the old site, future students from the area might be able to attend the new, more upscale schools.
In response to the request, the Bloomberg Administration received at least 24 proposals and the word is that potential developers for a site or sites will be chosen by June.
The innovative luxury housing program is being run by the Educational Construction Fund, an entity that was created back in 1967, but hadn’t been used until Mayor Bloomberg showed up and began making public land available to private developers as a way to raise revenue for the City and create more luxury housing for the wealthy, all the while making developers rich.
One key provision of the Bloomberg program is that it appears to allow these private developers to build without having to go through the city’s cumbersome review process. Another interesting note is that while the City will be able to lease the space for the “new” schools for a period of no greater than 40 years, the developers will have control of the site and housing towers for a full 99 year lease.
Playing their role as one of the primary apologists for the Bloomberg Administration, the Daily News recently proclaimed the benefit of turning over public property to private developers writing, “Take a walk on 91st St. and First Ave. A 34-story tower catches your eye. Costing $165 million, the Azure towers over the neighborhood offering some of the best views on the Upper East Side. From either of the two $5.7 million penthouses, you can see Central Park, the East River, and midtown skyline.
It’s what you don’t see that’s most important here. Next door at Middle School 114, more than 530 students were accepted into the public school for strong academic performance. Every day, the students walk into the newly-constructed school. They learn from smart boards in a fully air-conditioned facility equipped with computer labs.”
Imagine the honor of being able to tell your parents that you attend a school below a building that has not one, but two, $5.7 million penthouse apartments.”
It is a corporate education reformer’s dream come true. Public land, hundreds of millions for private develops, even more luxury housing for Manhattan and some kids even get future access to smart boards.
We can just imagine what innovative ideas will blossom from this type of thinking.
Perhaps they can make Central Park the largest in-door park in the world providing acres and acres of high end housing with their own variety of amenities. Of perhaps a new set of private, multi-million dollar apartments suspended below the George Washington Bridge and New York’s other river crossings.
You can almost hear it now, a win-win situation thanks to an iPod for every child and river view apartments for those who support the corporate education reform movement.
Media coverage on the issue can be found in a paper called the West Side Rag here, http://www.westsiderag.com/2013/02/20/pta-tries-to-reassure-parents-about-possible-public-school-demolitions, and here http://www.westsiderag.com/2013/02/17/exclusive-the-city-is-planning-to-demolish-ps-199-and-ps-191 and here http://www.westsiderag.com/2013/03/04/opposition-builds-to-demolishing-local-public-schools-but-some-see-benefits