Monday, December 5, 2022
Clear. High 47 degrees.
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By Carol Tannenhauser
Anyone who has ever lived, worked, or studied under scaffolding for a long period of time knows how dreary it can be, and the joy that erupts when it finally comes down.
So it was last week at the landmarked Joan of Arc Junior High School building on West 93rd Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus, when the metal pipes, wooden planks, and white netting were removed after nearly nine years.
“There is an air of excitement flowing through the schoolyard and hallways now that the scaffolding is gone,” wrote Gui Stampur, a parent at the Manhattan School for Children (MSC), one of three schools that share the Joan of Arc building. “We have our schoolyard back, and [it] looks like a school again, not a construction site.”
Lynn Feng, another parent, was thrilled that all the construction equipment had left with the scaffolding. “The sun quite literally (and figuratively) is shining through!” she wrote to the Rag. “Walking to school on that first day without the sidewalk shed, my first grader pointed up and said, “Look, you can see the sky!””
On Thursday afternoon, WSR ran over to take a look. Like a freshly shaven face, the building appeared light and clean — and younger than its 81 years. Construction workers were removing the last bit of netting from the iron fence in front of the school, while one sprayed the stone, scrubbing away indiscernible marks. “We came in and saved it,” he said, proudly, indicating that the contracting company had to be changed midstream.
The construction project to repair Joan of Arc’s “aging and leaky roof” was first announced in May 2014, and was expected to last three years. Why the scaffolding remained up for nine years is a long-running saga. Work expanded to include city-mandated repairs to the building facade. A city-hired contractor had to be replaced because of unsatisfactory work. The pandemic and supply chain issues caused further delays, according to the School Construction Authority, the city agency in charge of the work. Frustrated parents petitioned the agency to speed up its work schedule. They complained to media and Community Board 7, demanded more city transparency about the seemingly never-ending project. And then one day, it was finally done. Said parent Feng: “It’s amazing to see what an architectural gem was hiding behind all those layers of scaffolding and SCA mismanagement.”
Some of the parents are now embarking on a new project. “It is time for us to build an inclusive playground that meets the needs of all children at Joan of Arc,” Stampur concluded. “If you are reading this and want to join the effort to build an inclusive playground akin to the Bloomingdale Playground at 104th Street and Amsterdam, please reach out to email@example.com.”
The scaffolding was also recently removed from the Broadway side of the Ansonia, between W. 73rd and W. 74th Streets.
“Hallelujah!” exulted Peggy Taylor, a resident. “Let there be light!”
But Taylor added: “Although I hated it (except when it provided shelter from rain and snow), I knew that the overhaul was required by law and necessary. I didn’t want the Ansonia to be guilty of maintenance negligence and responsible for the death of a two-year-old like the one killed in 2015 when bricks from the Esplanade Retirement Home (now West End Assisted Living) broke loose and struck her on the head.”
* For a comprehensive look at the prevalence, permanence, and problems of scaffolding, read the Rag’s Special Report: The Omnipresence of Scaffolding and Its Impact on City Lives; Why and What Is Being Done?
Enjoy the chill!