The news we broke about the city’s effort to find developers willing to redevelop the sites of two Upper West Side public schools has shocked local parents. PS 191 on 61st street and PS 199 on 70th street could be demolished and redeveloped as high-rises with new schools inside them. Now the PTA at PS 199 is trying to quell parent anxiety.
“First and most importantly, no decisions have been made regarding anything and the demolition of PS199 is not imminent!” the PTA letter says (full letter reprinted below).
Since soliciting ideas from the real estate community months ago to develop high-rise apartment buildings with new schools on the sites of three current schools (two on UWS, one on UES), the city’s Educational Construction Fund (ECF) has received dozens of proposals from developers. The initial brochure sent to developers said that they could build on the sites with virtually no public review: the traditional development review process known as ULURP would be suspended because the sites of the current schools are owned by the city and the zoning in the area allows for large buildings. But since the plans leaked, city officials have said that they will involve parents throughout the process, and any development will have to go through ULURP (this may come as a surprise to developers who read in the city’s “request for expressions of interest” that they would not have to go through this process).
The PTA notes that the ECF will not move ahead with the redevelopment unless officials find a proposal worth completing. Then they will meet with parents and other stakeholders to see if it makes sense. The Department of Education wrote to us that the public engagement process will last for about two years. The PS 199 PTA leaders say that if students have to be relocated when the school is demolished, the entire school will be relocated to the same place (as opposed to some students going to one school, and others going to another school, for instance).
We’ve asked to see the developers’ proposals, but so far haven’t received them. (If the city wants parents involved in this process, why no ask for parents’ help in choosing a plan?)
Here’s the letter from the PS 199 PTA leaders:
Welcome back! Over the break there were several news pieces regarding the recent solicitation of possible ideas for the redevelopment of PS199 (as well as PS191 and a school on the East Side) into a school/residential tower. The PTA along with Katy has been engaged on this for several weeks and we spent a great deal of time at the PTA meeting on February 12th reviewing what we know, what we can expect and answering parent questions.
However, the media articles created some false impressions and we wanted to reach back out to reiterate what we have learned and hopefully calm some nerves!
First and most importantly, no decisions have been made regarding anything and the demolition of PS199 is not imminent!
The Education Construction Fund has started a process and we are in the very beginning stages of that process. Twelve developers have submitted ideas/expressed interest in the redevelopment of PS199 into a school/residential tower (developer tears down the school and rebuilds a brand new school as part of a residential tower). The ECF will now review those proposals and ask follow up questions of the developers over the next few months. Should any of these proposals seem viable, the ECF will then start an extensive conversation with the PS199 community.
The ECF has publicly indicated that any conversation about this possibility begins with the identification of a suitable relocation facility in our catchment and that our school will be kept intact (they would not move k-2 one place and 3,4,5 somewhere else). The ECF has also said publicly that any project would go through ULURP which is a land use process that involves the Community Board, Manhattan Borough President and City Council.
The ECF has indicated that the process of discussing and deciding to do this is extensive and that the earliest this could happen would be September, 2015. The ECF recently completed a project on the East Side and that process took five years.
Here is a link to a recent Daily News article on that [East Side] project.
At this point, we are keeping an open mind and are not pre judging anything until more information comes forward. It is possible that nothing more comes from this and it is also possible that the ECF returns in a few months to initiate further conversations.
Please be assured that we are working closely with our local officials and they are engaged in the issue and aware of our concerns at this point in time (attached is a letter from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer). We will continue to provide updates in the newsletters as well as discuss at PTA meetings and should this become more “real”, the intensity and focus of those conversations will increase.
As always, we are available to answer further questions, listen to concerns, comments or thoughts.
Eric, Eve and Katy
PS – Our next PTA meeting is a morning meeting on March 15th so please attend and we will discuss and answer questions on this.
We haven’t been hearing from as many PS 191 parents. If you are a parent there, please let us know what you think and if the PTA is involved.