NYC advocates say school construction plans fall short
A city task force charged with identifying new school building sites is set to release its first recommendations ? but some advocates say parents and the public have been kept in the dark about the whole process.
The School Siting Task Force, created last year to streamline the job of finding new space for school construction, held a meeting at City Hall Monday to preview a report it will issue to the City Council on Wednesday. But advocates contend the new group has operated behind closed doors, and that its recommendations don’t match the scale of the problem.
“The meeting made it clear that they don’t have sufficient tools to deal with the enormity of the problem,” said Lisa Goren, a member of the Long Island City Coalition, which is advocating for a new school in a city-owned building in the Queens neighborhood, a hotbed of school overcrowding.
“We need more transparency in the process and more community involvement,” she added.
City officials have estimated they’ll need to build 57,000 new seats over the next five years to alleviate overcrowding. A City Council mandate created the task force to improve communication between city agencies searching for new building sites.
At the Monday meeting, officials from the School Construction Authority said they’d narrowed a list of thousands of city-owned properties to just two that may meet space and location criteria. They’ll separately evaluate private properties.
Leonie Haimson, an education advocate and founder of the group Class Size Matters, filed a complaint over task force meetings with the Education Department in April, arguing they should be open to the public under city law.
Officials agreed to open the Monday meeting to the public, but Haimson said it was too little, too late.