Turns out, the School Construction Authority may have said one thing about building a middle school in DUMBO — but internally be discussing another.
A concerned DUMBO citizen filed a Freedom of Information Act with the SCA to uncover what exactly they are saying about the proposed middle school site on Dock Street in DUMBO, located within the controversial 18-story Walentas residential tower. UPDATE: We now have the full FOIL documents for you (pdf), and DumboNYC has it all rehashed:
UPDATE2: The Brooklyn Paper has an extensive analysis of the documents, and is sure to include the “entertainingly candid” parts, too (i.e. internal emails).
In a June 7, 2008 Brooklyn Paper article, “City: We don’t need a middle school in DUMBO” — now, the SCA told PS8 parents that “Right now, in this district, we do not identify a need” for a middle school. However, documents obtained by Yassky’s office as part of the FOIL, contradict SCA’s public statement on a few issues. While SCA claim that a public middle school is not needed, a document dating a few weeks earlier (PDF) shows that SCA coordinated with Two Trees to propose a middle school in the controversial development on Dock Street in Dumbo. This document includes a draft term sheet between SCA and Two Trees, but it is unknown how long the negotiations have been taking place.
Mr. Yassky also pressed SCA on researching alternate sites for a middle school in the Dumbo area. During the Borough President Hearing on Dock Street in January, the owner of 205 Water Street expressed interest in working with the SCA to look at the lot as a potential site. (Ref Dock Street foes, supporters clash at hearing, Brooklyn Paper). However, Yassky’s office notes that there are FOIL documents that show that other sites are not being seriously being considered. (PDF) According to Yassky’s office, the developer of One Brooklyn Bridge Park (at 360 Furman Street) also indicated that they have approx 45,000 square feet to dedicate to a new public middle school in an existing building, but the development does not generate revenue for BBP.
The FOIL also indicates that the there may be disagreement internally at SCA as to what $43 million in their capital budget represents. In one place, they indicate it is a stand alone building (PDF), in another they say that is the cost of the buildout from a shell (PDF). That figure stands in contrast to a proposed new public school in Queens that would serve 1,100 students at a cost of $70 million to retrofit, which is different than delivering a shell to specifications. In the Queens school build, the city has agreed to give preference in admissions to students living in three of the seven Queens districts. SCA has not said whether the Dock Street school will serve specific districts.
A spokesman for Councilman David Yassky, who vehemently opposes the Dock Street development, issued the following statement:
“David has fought for years for a middle school for our community, and still believes that our children would be best served by a top-flight school in Downtown Brooklyn. However, the documents disclosed in this FOIL request and SCA’s testimony yesterday clearly indicate that they are doing one thing in private, and saying another in public. While they were publicly sticking by the position that Downtown Brooklyn does not need a middle school as of June of last year, these documents prove that they had already been in negotiations with Two Trees on final terms of agreement. They also continue to insist to this day that they are doing their due diligence by carefully reviewing alternate sites, yet their private correspondence clearly indicates otherwise.
“Brooklyn and all New York City taxpayers deserve a process by which the School Construction Authority gives careful consideration to the cost-effectiveness of a variety of sites, not one by which they allocate over $40 million for a project that has not been determined to be the most fiscally responsible. However, the Authority seems intent on pursuing the Dock Street project without doing their homework. Simply put, they are acting in bad faith, should be forced to answer for their contradictions, and begin an authentic process that carefully reviews the numerous sites our office has provided them with.”