Asking for the Millennium

Community Board 1 (CB1) is pushing the City’s Department of Education (DOE) to lease more space within the historic Financial District skyscraper that houses Millennium High School.

Tricia Joyce, who chairs CB1’s Youth & Education Committee, said at the Board’s September 25 meeting, “Millennium High School is the gem of our community. It was started after September 11, 2001,” using funds raised to rebuild Lower Manhattan. “It is a perfectly diverse school, but also a very crowded school.”

In recent years, she pointed out, “Millennium High School has gone from hosting its design capacity of 575 students, to more than 700.” This appears to be due, in part, to the school’s soaring reputation for academic excellence, which has prompted more than 6,000 middle-school graduates to apply for a seat at the facility in each of the last several years.

“They are supposed to admitting 150 or 160 students each year, but this year they had to take 215 freshman,” Ms. Joyce noted. That influx is attributable not only to the sheer number of applicants, but also to the large percentage who, once offered a seat at Millennium, choose to attend there. This forces the school to pack as many as 37 students into each class, placing Millennium in technical violation of the DOE’s contract with the United Federation of Teachers, which stipulates a maximum of 34 students per class.

The former world headquarters of International Telephone & Telegraph, at 75 Broad Street, is now the home to Millennium High School, which community leaders are hoping to expand by leasing an additional floor.

Millennium currently occupies three floors (the 11th, 12th, and 13th stories) within 75 Broad Street, a 1928 skyscraper originally built as the headquarters of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT). In an interesting bit of local history, control rooms that ITT installed in the basement of their office building became the nerve center for communications with American submarines prowling beneath the Atlantic Ocean during World War Two.

The prospect of some relief from the cramped conditions that Millennium High School is experiencing recently arose, when the building’s owner, JEMB Realty, informed the DOE that an additional floor, one story above the school’s current space, would soon become available.

At its September 25 meeting, CB1 enacted a resolution urging the DOE to lease this space and use it to expand Millennium’s footprint. The measure notes that, “the 14th floor has recently become available for lease, giving the City the important opportunity to relieve both the severe overcrowding as well as the serious safety concerns Millennium is presently experiencing.” This was a reference to the fact that the 700-plus student body is limited to using three elevators, each with a ten-person capacity. As a result, each of these elevators must make more than 20 trips for the entire complement of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors to enter or leave the building, a process that takes more than 30 minutes.

The resolution continues, “Millennium could instantly fill the additional classroom space and additional programming space this expansion could afford,” and concludes that, “CB1 strongly requests that the DOE [and School Construction Authority] lease the 14th floor for Millennium High School, to assuage overcrowding as well as safety concerns due to the 133 percent capacity at the school presently — and immediately begin build out, in consultation with the school administration.”

The measure closes with a request that, “at least one, but preferably two additional elevators, dedicated for the school, is made available along with the expansion.”

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