The battle to improve Sunset Park schools continues.
Community Board 7 hosted an education meeting on Thursday, December 15 to discuss updated developments on the neighborhood’s goal of fixing its long-standing school overcrowding issue.
“We need to put the foot on the accelerator in terms of advocacy and getting all of the agencies to focus on what’s going on in Sunset Park with overcrowding,” said Cesar Zuniga, CB7 Education Committee chair, who added that he wants more town hall meetings that unify and educate locals. “We want to figure out how to get local administrators to come. Having them involved sends a message and it gives us more credibility. They can also provide the best testimony for why this is such a crisis and issue.”
Zuniga revealed that CB 7, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and activist groups will have a meeting with the School Construction Authority (SCA) this week to discuss several topics, including an update on the fate of the landmarked former precinct building at Fourth Avenue and 43rd Street.
“We should probably request an update to see where we are with it and I think that the community consensus is it should be an annex to the existing school across the street,” Zuniga said of the potential 12,500-square-foot space, that includes space now used as a parking lot. “I think there was a pretty clear message that folks don’t want that building to get torn down. The compromise is to try to work with the existing structure.”
Dan Murphy, chair of CB 7, offered theories on why the precinct building has become such an issue. “The running theory based upon evidence is that people that owned this building were letting it (be neglected) so that they could actually make it too expensive to save,” he said. “Once it becomes too expensive to save, it become worth 15 times what it is right now.”
Murphy also added that there’s a lot of room in area Catholic schools that isn’t being utilized, including OLPH at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street. “I don’t know what they did with the OLPH building, which just feels empty,” he said.
CB7 also hopes that the SCA representatives address several questions that they have yet to answer. “I see the meeting as an opportunity to build a meaningful relationship with those folks,” Zuniga added. “We’ve asked a lot of specific questions and we deserve to have some responses. But there are things that are still hanging out and no one has responded in any satisfaction. I know they say we have an overcrowding issue, but their actions don’t demonstrate that they are really understanding it.”
The new possible school site at the former C-Town, Eighth Avenue and 47th Street, was also discussed.
“District 15 is going to have a new school,” said Menchaca, of the school which is in neighboring Community Board 12. “It’s going to have 300 seats, modern facilities and an open ground playground. It’s closest to P.S. 169 which is one of the most overcrowded schools in our district. This is an emergency that we are experiencing right now in our community. This new site will help but we have a lot of work to do.”