WIHS neighbors blast lack of notice on planned construction

Council Member Rosie Mendez at a meeting held at the school building (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents of East 16th and 17th Streets expressed frustration about the planned construction for Washington Irving High School’s façade at a meeting hosted by Council Member Rosie Mendez inside the building on Monday.

East 16th Street resident Julie Block said that she was frustrated by the lack of communication on the part of the School Construction Authority about the project.

“Shame on you for the lack of community input until now,” she said. “We’re the stakeholders in this and we deserve to know what’s going on.”

The purpose of the project, Mendez said, is to repair the facade because of the cracks in the masonry. Netting and scaffolding has been put up to prevent pieces from falling onto pedestrians and some parts of the facade have been temporarily fixed, but some of the more severe cracks have caused water damage and staining inside the school. The budget for the project is $40 million and the expected completion date is March 2020.

The Department of Education did not have representatives at the meeting.

Residents who attended, however, were also concerned that the project will take longer because the work has to be done outside of school hours, with some asking why the work couldn’t get done when the main school closed in 2015 and before the multiple charter schools started moving in.

“If you find a way to stop Eva Moskowitz, let me know,” responded Mendez. “There’s a K-4 school here now and I don’t think we should even have elementary students in this building, but I wasn’t able to stop it.”

Washington Irving High School, pictured last April (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

During the summer, the work can be done between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. but when school is in session, contractors can only work starting at 4 p.m., leading to concerns that disruptive noise would be ongoing as late as midnight.

“I don’t understand why at least some of the less hazardous work can’t be done during the school day,” Block argued. “These kids live in New York City. They deal with risks like this every day anyway.”

Union representative Thomas Hasler, a teacher at the International High School of Union Square, which is located at the Irving Place building, said he understood the frustration residents were feeling. However, he added that he didn’t think the tone some residents took when speaking about the school was appropriate.

“These might not be kids from this neighborhood but they deserve an education under the best circumstances,” he said. “You have every right to ask these questions but we’re stakeholders here too.”

Residents also had concerns about garbage from the school piling up on East 16th Street, which has been displaced from its usual spot due to the staging going up on the block for the project. Mendez said that another meeting would have to be scheduled to discuss that issue, however, since the school wasn’t able to send a custodian to the meeting.

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