Push for new school at Police Academy

Police Academy building on East 20th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Police Academy building on East 20th Street (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Neighborhood residents are renewing the push to have the Police Academy building on East 20th Street converted into a school. Community Board 6 passed a resolution in 2008 from the Youth and Education Committee proposing the change and board members are again urging the city to revisit the issue because the academy will be leaving the space soon.

The 2008 resolution noted that the building, located at 235 East 20th Street, would be ideal for a school because it already contains classroom space, an auditorium and a gymnasium and there is a need in the neighborhood for more public school seats.

The board’s Land Use and Waterfront committee discussed the possible conversion in a meeting last Wednesday evening, bringing the issue up again because the police academy is expected to move to Queens by the end of next year, vacating the space on East 20th Street.

Residents at the meeting said they wanted to discuss the possibility of a public school not only because the city needs the seats for students but also to prevent the land from being sold to private developers for luxury high-rises.

“(The NYPD) needs to transfer the property to the Department of Education,” CB6 Vice Chair Ellen Imbimbo said. “So many properties have been sold out from under us with little or no notice with no opportunity to recast the transaction.”

A neighborhood resident suggested that a Department of Education official tour the facility to assess the feasibility of such a project and most at the meeting agreed that action needed to be taken because the DOE has not yet commented on whether or not the building could become a public school.

The committee will be drafting a letter to send to the DOE but the issue will not be reviewed by Community Board 6 again until the next full board meeting in January.

“It would make a wonderful high school or intermediate school,” resident Jim Collins said of the facility. “Yes, it’s beat up, but the cost of cleaning this space up is relatively de minimis compared to building a new school.”

One thought on “Push for new school at Police Academy

  1. Our community needs a local neighborhood academic high school. or children/parents should not have to hunt all over the city for a good neighborhood school.

    Keeping our children local allows more time for them to get involved in school activities, more academic and after school programs, and keeps and establishes life long friends. It is simply a fact that children are more likely to strengthen friendships when they don’t have to travel over an hour to meet, let alone, a parents safety concern of traveling during evening hours on multiple forms of transit.

    Further, it permits parents to be more involved in their child’s school and community affairs. The best way for this to occur if it is easier to get to school meetings rather than spending an hour or so each way just to attend.

    So what is the model for this to succeed? What would a school like this look like. Thankfully, community parents have a successful school example to model after. The Eleanor Roosevelt High School on the upper East Side is an excellent public High School established as an academically strong, local orientation, community based school. It is now one of the most sought after High Schools in the city our children can attend.

    This school was established because of the strong voice of parents, not politicians, bureaucrats, or Boards. However, here is the key differences between the Eleanor Roosevelt HS model I propose than what is being voiced now.

    First, we need a academically oriented High School only, not a school that will mix our children with primary or middle school children in a small space.

    Second, since there are not enough quality High Schools in our city, the DOE cast a wider catchment area for HS students, in fact its city-wide. Whatever the mechanism that works, the Mayor and DOE should figure some way local neighborhood resident children have a stronger opportunity to attend their neighborhood school.

    Call it whatever you want, “preference” seems to be a bad word today. However, experience, common sense and studies have shown children have a better opportunity to succeed with local strong community based schools. It it also much much less expensive to operate.

    Third, trade or “themed” schools might have their place, however, hour children to succeed in this world today need a strong, critical thinking educational base to go forward.

    Fourth, the High School selection and acceptance process in this city is 10 times worse than even some of the “elite” public primary/secondary school process because there are so fewer schools. Chopping up a 4000 HS student population into multiple schools in the same building is just not the same as having smaller, neighborhood schools with smaller catchment areas.

    Fifth, despite its through block location it is still a small site with No outside Physical Education PE eduction space, even if part of the roof can be utilized. Our children need the same PE needs that every other community’s children have and given the obesity, and value PE plays in a well rounded eduction – we should not compromise that need at the outset.

    Now let me let you in on a little secret, I was an active member, committee chair and vice-chair of CB Six for more than 15 years. There was and still is a strong element that do not not want or are ambivalent at best for a local High School only in our community. There have been opportunities in the past during negotiations for use of public space and this Board has let them go.

    This time parents need to speak up and say they want their neighborhood “Eleanor Roosevelt model” neighborhood resident High School.

    William Oddo

    Friends of the Pier at
    Stuyvesant Cove Park

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