Investigation finds no violations at Washington Irving construction site

The construction site outside the Washington Irving High School campus (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A report on the ongoing construction at the Washington Irving High School campus released by the Department of Investigation last Monday determined that the School Construction Authority has not violated city, state or federal regulations as a result of the work, contrary to complaints from neighbors regarding noise, dust and other safety issues.

The SCA’s Office of the Inspector General received numerous complaints about the project regarding noise and dust but said in the report that the testing of noise levels has not resulted in any violations from the Department of Environmental Protection or the Department of Buildings.

Although the DEP received more than 80 noise complaints between March 24, 2017, and December 17, 2018, and inspectors visited the site more than 80 times, the agency never issued a summons for a noise violation.

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P.S. 40 holds Maker Faire

Finalists in the Junior Chef Competition for the best vegetarian salad with Chef Jenny Ecclestone (Photo by Ashley Naomi)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, hundreds of families headed to P.S. 40 for the school’s first Maker Faire, organized by the PTA. The event, done in coordination with Salk School and MS 104, included a Junior Chef competition and activities for children like robot building, Battle Bots racing and stuffed animal making.

The event was open to the community and free, with organizer and PTA board member Benjy Kile remarking it was nice to be holding an event that wasn’t a fundraiser for a change. That said, some items, including food, were for sale, with vendors kicking back a portion to the school, but, said Kile, “It’s meant to be more of a community event.”

The Junior Chef event proved to be a big hit among event goers, who crowded the school’s auditorium for judging.

A chef who works with the school on a wellness committee, “Chef Jenny” Ecclestone, said the contestants, who’d already made it to a finalist round, had presented vegetarian salads. The winning entry, a kale salad, was prepared by Leyli Colley.

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Parents still hope to save St. Brigid School

St. Brigid families gathered after mass on Sunday to protest the closure of the East Village school and to strategize. (Photos by Sidney Goldberg)

By Sabina Mollot

Shell-shocked parents and students at St. Brigid, a parish-run Catholic school across from Tompkins Square Park, have been doing hail Marys in the hopes of getting the Archdiocese to rethink a decision made last week to shutter the school and four others in the city.

On Sunday, parents, local elected officials and children making homemade signs gathered for a brain storming session and protest after mass, and one parent and school volunteer, Amanda Daloisio, insisted, “We’re not going down without a fight.”

Daloisio, who lives a block away from the school, said parents, on top of being heartbroken are also furious about the way the announcement was handled.

Daloisio said the principal was the first to be told on a Friday but was instructed not to tell anyone. She did share the news with teachers at an emergency meeting the following Monday, but they too were told to stay silent. Parents were then given notices in their children’s backpacks although curiously some students were told about it by the principal before their parents. Parents received an alert on their phones to be on the lookout for the letter.

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Professors arrested at Baruch College protest

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested 17 members of the City University of New York’s faculty and union members following a protest at East 25th Street where they demanded better funding that included a raise. The protest occurred on December 10 during a meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees, which approves the university’s annual budget request.

Among those arrested for disorderly conduct were Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress union, PSC’s first vice president Andrea Vasquez and PSC secretary Nivedita Majumdar, in addition to other union members, professors and adjuncts throughout the CUNY system.

Police said that the protesters were yelling loudly, chanting and blocking the entrance of Baruch College at 55 Lexington Avenue at around 5 p.m., preventing people from going inside the main entrance and preventing people from leaving for more than 10 minutes. Baruch Public Safety asked the protesters to leave and they allegedly refused to do so.

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Epstein wants student loan forgiveness for low-income NYers

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Late last month, the State Assembly held a hearing in an effort to come up with solutions to the worsening student loan crisis.

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein later said that while it’s yet to be determined by his colleagues if this is a matter to be handled legislatively, he personally supports student loan forgiveness. At the hearing, testimony was also given about whether it’s necessary to regulate student loan servicers in New York.

Over the past decade, student loan debt in New York State has grown by 112 percent, bringing the number of borrowers here to just under three million. Prior to the hearing, the Assembly said the stats highlight “the significant impact the student loan industry has on our population and (how it) needs to be examined with greater urgency.”

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Teen arrested for rape in stairwell at school on E. 15th

High School for Health Professions and Human Services at 345 East 15th Street

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A student was arrested for raping another student inside a high school on East 15th Street near Stuyvesant Square Park last week.

According to police, a male student at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services at 345 East 15th Street raped the female student inside a stairwell of the school building on Wednesday, October 10 at 1:23 p.m.

Police said that the teen pulled his pants down, grabbed the victim’s neck and forced her to perform oral sex on him. The teen also allegedly pulled down the victim’s pants and penetrated her with his finger.

Police did not specify the age of either the suspect or the victim but said that they were both students at the high school and are both younger than 17. The name of the suspect is being withheld by the NYPD due to his age.

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UNIS students bring warmth to those in need

Solal, one of the students who knitted scarves that were left by the East River this winter (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

One fourth grade class at the United Nations International School is learning how to give back to the community through crafting. Humanities teachers Áine Feeney and Idoya Tapia helped their students put together a project to leave handmade scarves along the East River Promenade during a cold spell last December for people in need to pick up and use.

The project, first noted by local blog EV Grieve last month, made its debut along the East River on December 15 and Feeney said that when they went back to check on the bags about a week later, all of the scarves were gone.

“It’s possible that someone who didn’t really need it took one of the scarves, but we were also trying to teach the kids that it’s worth that risk,” Feeney said.

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East Village pre-school planning to offer grades K-5

Students work on a crafts project. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Sara Curry Preschool at Little Missionary’s Day Nursery, a tuition-based but despite the name non-religious pre-school on St. Marks Place, is expanding for the second time in three years, this time to offer kindergarten and elementary school grades.

Eileen Johnson, the school’s director, said she’d been hearing from too many parents of her former students that they’re unhappy with public elementary schools, even so-called progressive ones. But with her preschool’s five-story building already at capacity, Johnson had to forget about adding classes for kids who age out of the program — that is, until now.

“When you have to say no to people all the time, then it’s like, ‘I really want to do this,’” she said.

For the next few years, Johnson plans to phase in additional grades up to grade 5. Next fall, there will be kindergarten and first grade, the following year second grade and the next year third. She’s considering dividing one of the school’s larger classrooms and plans to further utilize the basement (now used just for after school programming and art) to make this work. But after that, Sara Curry Preschool will need to get an additional small building.

“The goal is to get a little sister building nearby so we can accommodate everybody,” she said. “Or even an infant building.”

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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.”

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MS 104 packed for citywide girls’ chess tournament

Over 400 players were in attendance. (Photo by Maya Rader)

By Maya Rader

On Saturday, March 4, students all over the city from Kindergarten to 12th grade faced off at MS 104 in the All Girls NYC Chess Challenge. The tournament was held in honor of Women’s History Month and run by Chess in the Schools, a nonprofit organization that brings chess to New York City students.

The tournament, held in the school cafeteria, was separated into four rounds spanning most of the morning and afternoon, with a break for lunch.

Nine-year-old Peter Cooper Village resident Abigail Yang won a first place trophy for the Kindergarten-5th grade Championship section. Her school PS33 also won first place in both K-5 championship team NYC All Girls and K-2 championship team trophy. The PS33 Chelsea Prep team started in 2016 with five girls and now has 16.

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T&V asks teens about governor’s free CUNY tuition proposal

Interviews by Maya Rader

Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed making tuition free at CUNY and SUNY colleges for students with households earning under $125,000. Town & Village asked students at Clinton High School for Writers and Artists if this would impact where they choose to go to school.

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George Weathers III
“I feel that I would probably want to stay in the city or the state rather than go outside and spend more money. My parent does not make over 125 thousand dollars, so I would want to get the free education.”

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Soapbox: A place for intellectual retirees

By Elaine Greene Weisburg

Members of The New School’s Institute for Retired Professionals are accustomed to hearing fellow members express their gratitude for this Greenwich Village learning center. This reporter, a member since 2005, has often heard the following comment in one form or another: “The IRP saved my life.”

Of the dozen or so IRP retirees living in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, several have been members for two decades. Among them are Rhonda Gelb who went from school guidance counselor to retirement counselor at J.P. Morgan; Harriett Zwerling, who taught two generations of fourth graders in Greenpoint; and Beverly Butler, a retired city social worker.

For over 50 years this arm of The New School has been an inspirational pioneer in the lifelong education movement, a movement that the aging of the baby boomer generation is actively fueling. The IRP, although a part of a university, does not draw upon its faculty. We practice peer learning which means we, the members, run our program and conduct our classes under the guidance of the IRP executive director.

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New Epiphany principal aims to build students’ confidence

Stuyvesant Town resident Kate McHugh has replaced James Hayes as principal at Epiphany School. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town resident Kate McHugh has replaced James Hayes as principal at Epiphany School. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

After nearly four decades, The Epiphany School will have a new principal.

Former principal — and now school foundation president — James Hayes left the position in June to much fanfare and a 200-person flash mob.

Taking over for him is the former assistant principal, Stuyvesant Town resident Kate McHugh, who joined the school 15 years ago as a science teacher. She is also a graduate of the Catholic school, which now has 560 students.

During a recent interview, McHugh said she’s not planning any major changes, just tweaks to the current curriculum with the goal of doing what it takes to make sure students are confident, both in their faith and in being prepared for the realities of the day’s highly technological world.

“We’ve increased the amount of technology a lot in 15 years,” McHugh said, “mirroring what’s going on in society.”

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A.P. now P.S. 40’s principal for a year

Stephanie Lukas (Photo by Maya Rader)

Stephanie Lukas (Photo by Maya Rader)

By Maya Rader

In the coming 2016-17 school year at P.S. 40 elementary school, assistant principal Stephanie Lukas will assume the role of acting principal while Susan Felder, the current principal, takes part in a year-long fellowship program. Daria Agosta, a fifth grade teacher, will take over as assistant principal in Lukas’s stead.

Lukas has been assistant principal for ten years. Before she came to P.S. 40, she taught kindergarten uptown, first at P.S. 151 and then at P.S. 165. The latter had a partnership with the Professional Development School program, meaning professors from Columbia University’s Teachers College would come to Lukas’s classroom to do research. In turn, Lukas received student teachers and could take free classes at Teachers College. Through her school’s connection to the college, Lukas worked with many other teachers and education professionals on joint projects, including co-teaching a seminar for people going into education. Lukas said that from this experience she saw, “that you can have an impact without just being in the classroom.”

Lukas and Felder knew each other before Lukas interviewed for the job of assistant principal at P.S. 40. When Lukas was working at P.S. 165, Felder worked at a school nearby. Felder worked with new teachers as a literary staff developer, so she would sometimes bring new teachers into Lukas’s kindergarten classroom to observe.

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