Lower Manhattan Principals and Teachers Sound Alarm about Fall Semester
Hundreds of students from the Battery Park City School (P.S/I.S. 276) converge on the sidewalk in front of their building in September, 2018, to transform it into a vast public art project. Educators are now concerned that health risks associated with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic may render schools unsafe to reopen on September 10.
Multiple principals and teachers in Lower Manhattan public schools are voicing grave concerns about the plan to reopen education facilities on September 10.
They are also raising objections to the “blended learning model” that the City’s Department of Education (DOE) plans to implement this fall, with students going to school buildings one to three days per week, while learning remotely (from home) for the remainder of each week.
A coalition of 14 principals who run elementary and middle schools in the DOE’s District Two (roughly, Manhattan below 96th Street on the East Side and below 59th Street on the West Side, with the exception of part of the Lower East Side) wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on August 19, calling upon them to, “delay the launch of in-person learning until we can adequately plan for a safe and instructionally sound return to school buildings.”
Among the signatories of this letter are three principals who lead highly regarded local schools: Terri Ruyter (of P.S./I.S. 276, the Battery Park City School), Maggie Siena, (of P.S. 343, the Peck Slip School), and Nancy Harris (of P.S. 397, the Spruce Street School).
“It is untenable for us to plan—let alone open our school buildings in a matter of weeks—without critical policies and resources,” the principals observe. “It is impossible to ignore the dozens of missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle we are being asked to solve.”
“With a revised class size of approximately 10 students, we will need double to triple the number of teachers on staff. We have not received any concrete guidance on how to fill these gaps, though we have asked on a near-daily basis for months,” the letter also notes.
Among the other unresolved issues that the principals cite are:
• Documentation of proper ventilation and adequate personal protective equipment
• An official school calendar that can communicate schedules to families
• Escalating vacancies and staffing shortages (especially amid a hiring freeze)
• Providing essential functions of a school when staff are working from home
• Supporting school staff and their families by providing child care and aftercare
“We cannot adequately prepare for Blended Learning when much of our time is taken by logistical puzzles that have no readily-available solution,” their letter insists.
The hurdles that the school leaders anticipate having to overcome in the 48 hours between September 8 (when teachers and staff are slated to return to school) and September 10 include:
• Cleaning out classrooms and instructional spaces (school hallways and classrooms still have student work and belongings “frozen in time” from March, the principals say)
• Organizing and distributing materials to remote-only students and families
• Training staff on essential safety updates, including use of personal protective equipment, as well as escalation protocols for suspected and positive cases of COVID-19
• Training staff so they can prepare for students who have experienced collective trauma
• Training staff on new learning platforms and instructional methods
“As a united community of educators, we strive for transparency and care with our communities. We are asking for the same from those meant to guide and support us,” the letter from the principals concludes. “Our families and school communities deserve honesty and preparedness. We can no longer pretend we are equipped to welcome students back into our school buildings on September 10th.”
In a separate but related development, another coalition—this one comprised of 59 teachers and staff members at P.S./I.S. 276—has released an open letter regarding school buildings reopening. The letter declares, “schools are not safe to reopen on September 10.”
This letter continues: “reopening school buildings poses significant risks, both physically and emotionally, for all involved. We are concerned that the blended model is not developmentally appropriate, especially for our youngest students.”
The letter also notes that concerns raised about P.S./I.S. 276, while serious, are even more acute in other New York City public schools: “the current blended model of learning put forth by the NYC DOE fails to address serious concerns. While we are privileged with a new school building and a full-time outstanding nurse, there are numerous neighborhoods with higher rates of COVID transmission, and schools that still do not have nurses.”
Marijo Russell O’Grady
Some Downtowners knew Marijo Russell O’Grady from Liberty Community Gardens, where she tended her herbs and roses almost daily and always shared fragrant sprigs with fellow gardeners. Some knew her from Downtown Little League, where she served on the Board of Directors for many years and focused on the Challengers division for participants with special needs. Many knew her as the warm and energetic Dean for Students at Pace University, a role that she filled with gusto for more than 20 years.
Marijo Russell O’Grady passed away on August 8 after a short battle with an aggressive recurrence of breast cancer. Her husband of 29 years, Mark O’Grady, and her son, James Russell O’Grady, were at her side. She was 59.
Dr. Russell O’Grady was named as one of the “Top 100 Irish Educators” by the Irish Voice. In 2017, she received Pace University’s Jefferson Award for Public Service. Dr. O’Grady co-authored a book with Katie L. Treadwell, published in March 2019, titled “Crisis, Compassion and Resiliency in Student Affairs: Using Triage Practices to Foster Well-Being,” about the experiences of student affairs professionals who encounter crisis on college and university campuses. She served on the New York City World Trade Center Health Registry Board as the former chair of its Community Advisory Board, and until her death, she served on the World Trade Center Health Registry Scientific Review Board.
Marijo Russell O’Grady was a vital member of the Lower Manhattan community, and will be missed.
Grotto Restaurant and Pizzeria FiDi’s hidden gem for over 35 years.
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let Grotto feed you and your family tonight.
Grotto sits between
The New York Stock Exchange and Bowling Green on New Street, steps from from the Bull at Bowling Green.
Discussion about Development Highlights Local Infrastructure Challenges
At what point does a water and sewer system designed after the Civil War to support a community of five-story buildings buckle under a district of 50- and 100-story buildings?
This was the question raised by Fern Cunningham at the June 17 meeting of the Quality of Life Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1). The Committee was reviewing a presentation by Humberto Galarza, a public affairs representative with the City’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Ms. Cunningham asked, “what is the impact of CB1’s increased density on our sewage treatment and access [to drinking water]?” This was a reference to the headlong pace of real estate development in Lower Manhattan in recent years.
“Every now and then we hear about water main breaks,” Ms. Cunningham continued, “and we are the oldest part of the City. To read more…
Visionary Plans for Getting Around Downtown Focus on Two Wheels and Two Feet
A pair of new studies outlines a future for Lower Manhattan that is highly cyclical. The first of these, a report from the Downtown Alliance titled, “Bicycle Infrastructure & Commuting in Lower Manhattan,” notes that more than 20 percent of people who are employed Downtown currently walk or bike to work, while nearly one-third of people who live here get to and from their places of business in the same way.
These hardy souls are among some 49,000 New York City commuters (concentrated mainly in Manhattan and Brooklyn) who get to the office and back under the power of their own legs each day — a figure that has jumped 55 percent since 2012, and is growing by roughly nine percent each year.
City Health Data Show That Slightly More Than 13 Percent of Downtown Residents Test Positive for Coronavirus
One out of every seven people in Lower Manhattan is either infected with, or has been exposed to, the pandemic coronavirus. That is the conclusion gleaned from data, made available for the first time by City public health officials earlier this week. These metrics break down overall numbers of tests (along with numbers of positive results) by zip code.
The reassuring news is that Downtown’s eight residential zip codes rank among the lowest anywhere in the five boroughs, with the rate of positive test results in each hovering between 12 and 16 percent. (For comparison, in the zip code for the Corona section of Queens, slightly more than half of everybody tested showed positive results for infection or exposure.)
According to the City’s Department of Health data, the local totals for testing, and positive rates for test results (outlined by zip code) break down as follows:
To read more…
Putting the ‘Down’ in
Downtown Real Estate
Local Apartment Rents and Sales Prices Tumbled in the Second Quarter
A trio of reports quantifies the extent to which property prices in Lower Manhattan crumbled in the three months ending June 30.
A pair of analyses from Platinum Properties, a brokerage firm headquartered in the Financial District, looks in detail at Battery Park City and the Financial District.
The company’s report about Battery Park City documents that the average sales price for a condominium in the community dropped by 24.81 percent, relative to the second quarter of 2019, to $1.16 million. This aggregate figure varies by apartment size, with the worst pain reserved for sellers of two-bedroom units, which dropped by 42.4 percent from the first quarter of this year. The number of units sold fell by more than half, to just nine apartments.
Kavanagh and Niou Aim to Protect Small Businesses by Offering Tax Incentives to Landlords
Two State legislators representing Lower Manhattan are proposing to rescue small businesses with a plan that would trade tax credits to landlords for rent breaks to commercial tenants.
Inspired by the acute financial distress that small businesses are experiencing in the wake of the pandemic coronavirus (and the economic cataclysm that it has unleashed), the “COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Lease Act,” sponsored in the State Senate by Brian Kavanagh and the Assembly by Yuh-Line Niou, aims to entice property owners to renegotiate leases and offer long-term, affordable rents to small business owners.
To read more…
Following a six-month closure due to the COVID-19, the New Museum announced that it will reopen to the public on September 15, 2020. Admission will be free through September 27 as a welcoming gesture.
Upon reopening, the Museum will resume its normal days and hours of operation, 11am – 6PM every day except Thursday where the Museum is open until 9pm. It is closed on Monday.
Admission will be through timed ticketing and visitorship will be limited to less than 25% of capacity. All visitors will be required to reserve tickets in advance online at newmuseum.org, beginning August 31, 2020.
In the Galleries:ning, the New Museum’s acclaimed exhibitions will remain on view, “Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment,” “Jordan Casteel: Within Reach,” and “Daiga Grantina: What Eats Around Itself.” The Peter Saul and Jordan Casteel exhibitions opened on February 11 and 19 respectively, just weeks before the COVID-19 closure. The exhibitions will remain on view through the end of the year.
Whitney Museum to Reopen
The Whitney will reopen on September 3 for members and a few days later for the general public.
Honoring those who died on 9/11 as well as those who are sick or who have died from exposure to hazards and toxins in the aftermath of 9/11. Bagpipers play near the 9/11 Memorial Glade at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
New Doc on the Block
Tribeca Pediatrics Founder Gets CB1’s Blessing to Renovate Historic Seaport Building
Community Board 1 (CB1) is giving its approval to a proposal to alter a building within the South Street Seaport Historic District, while also noting that the developer has gone out of his way to address the concerns of community leaders.
The property is 107 South Street (between Beekman Street and Peck Slip), which dates from 1900, and has been vacant for decades. In 2019, the building was purchased (for $6 million) by Dr. Michel Cohen, who will be familiar to many Lower Manhattan residents as the physician who founded Tribeca Pediatrics, and has helped care for a generation of Downtown kids.
CB1 Opposes New Restaurant Planned for Public Land Proposed in Seaport
A rendering of the plan for a restaurant beneath the FDR Drive, in the Seaport neighborhood.
Community Board 1 (CB1) is stating its opposition (for the fourth time) to a plan that would create a new restaurant beneath the FDR Drive, in the South Street Seaport neighborhood.
The proposal would demolish an existing storage shed (located alongside South Street, between Fulton and John Streets) that contains two public bathrooms, and replace it with restaurant housing a 2290-square-foot dining area with 30 tables and 85 chairs, along with a 700-plus square foot bar area with 26 seats. The new structure would largely eclipse the view corridor that frames panoramic vistas of the East River (and the tall ship Wavertree) from John Street.
Need a safe and breezy break from your apartment? Several cruise operators have reopened in North Cove and are offering opportunities to get out on the water, including Tribeca Sailing, Ventura, and Classic Harbor Line. All cruise operators are adhering to social distancing guidelines; check individual websites for details.