P.S. 150, the beloved elementary school also known as the Tribeca Learning Center, has been saved.
Although no official announcement has been made, multiple sources directly familiar with the situation confirm that late Wednesday afternoon, all concerned parties agreed in principle to a deal that will keep the school at its current location, within the Independence Plaza complex, until the planned opening of its permanent home at a new public school on Trinity Place, in the Financial District, when that facility opens in the early 2020s.
“We have won!” exulted Tricia Joyce, chair of the Youth & Education Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1). She added that the City’s Department of Education (DOE) and School Construction Authority (SCA), “have struck a deal with Vornado,” which, as owner of the Independence Plaza complex, is the landlord for the rented space that P.S. 150 has occupied for decades.
“We had a late call with the Mayor’s office and our elected officials informing us that a deal to keep P.S. 150 in place until Trinity opens had been struck,” added Jonah Benton, treasure of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association. “We are incredibly grateful.”
“This is a huge victory,” Ms. Joyce added. “It really did take a village.” She observed that, “the mayor’s office pushed it over the edge,” noting that City Council member Margaret Chin, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Assembly member Deborah Glick, and State Senator Brian Kavanagh all advocated on behalf of the school, as did the Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Karin Goldmark. “The strategies employed on this one were really next level,” Ms. Joyce noted.
Buxton Midyette, a P.S. 150 parent and longtime advocate for Lower Manhattan public schools, recounted that, “the Mayor intervened and along with our elected officials was able to convince Vornado to extend our lease until the new school building at Trinity is completed.”
Paul Hovitz, vice chair of CB1 and co-chair of its Youth & Education Committee, said, “our elected officials were on board. Even the DOE and SCA were on board. The key was Vorando and Stellar Realty,” another firm with part-ownership at Independence Plaza. “The hope was that they would agree to extend the lease so that this super school could remain in its home until the Trinity School is ready for occupation.”
As the term of P.S. 150’s lease at Independence Plaza neared its end, DOE officials announced in October that P.S. 150 would have to leave its existing home at the end of the current school year (in the spring of 2019) and relocate to a shared space, within the Peck Slip School, in the South Street Seaport District. This was viewed as a temporary expedient, because that school is already overcrowded. In this scenario, P.S. 150 would subsequently had to move again, when the school now being built on Trinity Place opened, a milestone now scheduled to 2022. Under this plan, the disruption to the tightly knit community of students, parents, and staff at P.S. 150 was likely to be considerable.
“This was not only a matter of classroom space,” Mr. Hovitz reflected. “There would have been no more science, music, or art rooms at Peck Slip, or space for specialized services. Instead these would have all been on carts in the classrooms. And lunch for the new population have needed to be served as early as 9:30 am.”
Even with the immediate danger averted, the battle may not quite be over. During the last eight weeks of struggle to save the school, many P.S. 150 supporters voiced hope that the school could remain in its current home not merely until the Trinity Place facility was ready, but indefinitely. And even the eventual move to Trinity Place would translate into a cumulative loss of local school seats, relative to what parents and Lower Manhattan community leaders had been led to expect, because new schools like Peck Slip and the Trinity Place facility were originally billed as providing classrooms and seats in addition to those already in operation, rather than instead of seats that would be removed by closing an extant school.
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