Sunset parents urge transforming alleged hot sheets hotel to school

If you build it, they will come, claim parents of Sunset Park.

On Thursday, October 22 at 3 p.m., children and parents from the neighborhood who have struggled with school overcrowding issues in recent years rallied outside 39 Hotel, 516 39th Street, where owners were recently busted by cops from the 72nd Precinct and federal agents for allegedly running a prostitution ring.

Their request: transform the building into a school.

During the rally, held  a week after the arrests, attendees held homemade signs that listed schools in the nabe that are overcrowded, with one reading, “P.S. 169 has 1,700 students. It’s unfair and unsafe.”

“Just about every school in Sunset Park is severely overcrowded. P.S. 169 and P.S. 94 are so overcrowded, they have two to three buses of children leaving daily to Park Slope and surrounding schools,” said Community Board 7 member and parent, Jovita Sosa, who expressed concerns about the future of the kids. “How can the children of Sunset Park, many of whom are new immigrants and the future of Sunset Park, ever aspire to get a job as a professional without a solid foundation?”

“The overcrowding issue is at least two decades old. Therefore, it is much more complex than many realize,” said organizer of the peaceful rally, Maria Roca. “The issue at this moment, however, is simple and straightforward. We the parents, grandparents, community at large, educators and supporters who gathered call for nothing less than a fully-equipped and programmed public school to be up and running at this site as soon as possible, and a moratorium on Department of Buildings permits throughout Sunset Park, until their impact is studied and assessed. Also, we are calling for an end to the loophole in M-1 and 2-zoned land that allows for hotels to be constructed as-of-right.”

Parent Mimi Ferrer spoke during the rally. “These schools were built for a certain amount of kids and every year, the number keeps growing, but the space and help are not,” she said. “P.S. 169 can’t hire more staff if there’s no space to put our students. Who is going to assist our students?”

Assemblymember Felix Ortiz has written a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking him to consider the proposal. “Prostitution rings and drugs have no place in Sunset Park or anywhere else in New York. This hotel is now in our past and we need to move on,” he wrote. “I ask that you look into preventing this building from operating as a hotel and to convert this site into a much needed school for Sunset Park’s ever growing population, already overcrowded into too few facilities.”

“We took the first step in a fight that will be constant,” said attendee Jadiel Castillo Baez.” The population of this community will remain united and firm. No more hotels in this community and, at the same time, we demand more schools for our children to develop in a healthy environment educationally.”


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