P.S. 150 students gathered Nov. 13 to plea for their school to remain in its current home. Photo: Michael Garofalo
Chanting “save our school” and waving handmade signs, member of the P.S. 150 community rallied Nov. 13 to plead for the school to remain in its current location in Independence Plaza. Students, parents and elected officials gathered on the elementary school’s steps to call on the city and the school’s landlord to negotiate a deal to extend P.S. 150’s expiring lease and keep the elementary school in the Greenwich Street apartment complex.
The Department of Education notified the P.S. 150 community in October that the school would be relocated after the current school year, following the failure of the city and Independence Plaza ownership to reach an agreement to renew the school’s lease. Stellar Management and Vornado Realty Trust, which own Independence Plaza, plan to use the space now occupied by the school for new apartments and amenities for residents.
P.S. 150 won national recognition for academic excellence in 2014, when it was honored as a prestigious Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
DOE plans call for P.S. 150 to be temporarily moved roughly a mile east, where it will be co-located in the building that houses the Peck Slip School. According to DOE officials, the building has sufficient space to accommodate both the roughly 180 students from P.S. 150 and the Peck Slip School’s student body of about 380.
“We want to be emphatically clear that a co-location is not the solution for this school,” said Tricia Joyce, chair of the Community Board 1 youth and education committee.
P.S. 150 would again be relocated in about four years, upon completion of a new 476-seat school that will be housed in the luxury condominium tower now under construction at 28-42 Trinity Place.
Joyce said that losing a school, even as another one is being built, is an unacceptable outcome in Lower Manhattan, which suffers from a school seat shortage driven by rapid population growth and residential development in the neighborhood since 9/11. “We need all 476 of those seats at the new school on Trinity Place, so we’re compromising if we’re asking for these 180 children [from P.S. 150] to go into that building when it opens,” she said.
Stellar and Vornado have cited “the need for additional residential units and amenities” at the 1,300-unit complex as a reason for the decision not to renew the school’s lease.
“Moving our children twice in the next four years for the promise of a pool for the future luxury tenants of this building is not OK,” said Anshal Purohit, co-president of the P.S. 150 parent teacher association.
Margaret Chin, who represents Lower Manhattan in the City Council, said, “When you look for a neighborhood to move in, the first thing you want to know is about the schools. The best amenity for this building is to have an award-winning school.”
“We are urging Vornado and Stellar to come back to the table to talk with [the School Construction Authority] and DOE and find a creative solution to keep P.S. 150 here,” Chin said.
An Independence Plaza representative declined to detail ownership’s plans for the additional units and amenities at the complex.
Stellar and Vornado agreed to extend the school’s lease by three years in 2015. In an emailed statement on behalf of the ownership group, a spokesperson wrote that the extension provided “the school and all involved parties ample time to create a relocation plan favorable to the P.S. 150 students and staff. At that time we clearly and transparently confirmed that the lease would not be renewed and together we documented that understanding in writing.”
“As agreed, the lease expired in August, unfortunately without relocation plans in place,” the statement continued. “Notwithstanding our written agreement, we have agreed not to enforce our rights and to give the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority one more year to finalize a suitable relocation plan.”
Doug Cohen, a spokesperson for DOE and SCA, said that the city is willing to discuss further options with Independence Plaza ownership. “It’s unfortunate that the owner of the building refused to renew the lease, despite our attempts to find a solution throughout the year,” Cohen wrote in an emailed statement. “Once we were informed that P.S. 150 could not remain in the building, we immediately began developing a long-term plan to present to the community, and are working closely with [Community Education Council 2], parents, and community members throughout this process.”
Brian Kavanagh, who represents the neighborhood in the state Senate, called on the parties to put aside their differences and return to the negotiating table. “All we’ve heard so far is finger pointing — the city saying the developer is at fault, the developer saying the city is at fault,” he said at the rally. “One thing we know is that neither the parents or the students standing behind me are at fault. They should not be suffering.”
Jennifer Spain, the parent of a second grader at P.S. 150, as well as two other children who previously graduated from the school, said she “hopes that reason prevails” and that the school can stay in place. “It just makes no sense,” she said. “It’s an amazing school.”