Wednesday, September 12

School buildings going up all over town

The DOE's capital plan doesn't call for too many new schools in the next few years, to the dismay of parents and advocates for small class size, but the DOE announced groundbreaking on two new buildings this week. In Manhattan, East Side Middle School is getting a new building of its own in 2009, after sharing space with PS 158 for years. And Cypress Hills Community School in Brooklyn will also get its own building in 2009, complete with multi-purpose room, cafeteria, "community room," and library.

The DOE was eager to emphasize that the East Side Middle School building is being constructed without public funds, through a public-private partnership with the developers of a new residential building. Mayor Bloomberg is hot on public-private partnerships, for good reason: they let wealthy companies buy the city things it can't afford. In the case of the school, the developers will rent air rights from the city in exchange for paying for the school, allowing them to construct a 34-story residential tower that would otherwise have been prohibited. (Perhaps this is the kind of deal developers seeking to construct a view-obscuring building in DUMBO are angling for?) While the city should be willing to foot the bill for building schools, this sounds like a great solution to the DOE's pressing space needs. But this particular fix is likely to work in areas with lots of new construction by wealthy development companies. I wonder what the city has planned for overcrowded schools in neighborhoods that will never need or want a skyscraper.

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