Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Community News & Notes from NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio...


I strongly condemn Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to delay the hiring of over 500 police cadets, a move that will put the safety of New Yorkers at risk. This decision coupled with proposed budget cuts to the NYPD risks taking our police force back to the historic lows of the early 1990s. The progress we have made on reducing crime in the years since makes it clear that taking our police force backwards would be a dangerous mistake.”


I commend the Department of Transportation for responding to community concerns by halting its plans to install a bike lane in Bay Ridge. This was an important step forward that shows a willingness to respect the input of residents and community leaders. I challenge the Department to make listening to New Yorkers standard procedure and to be willing to incorporate community feedback into its projects.”


Lawsuit over lost classrooms, programs has backing of all UWS officials, Public Advocate

Parents of students at the Brandeis Educational Complex have filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court to block the NYC Department of Education’s proposed co-location of a Charter Success Academy elementary school in their building. Parents have the backing of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Councilmember Gale Brewer, Assemblymembers Linda Rosenthal and Danny O’Donnell, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, as well as Congressmen Jerry Nadler and Charles Rangel. Brandeis was recently reorganized from a single high school into four smaller, growing high schools. The plan to move an elementary school into the building would result in overcrowding and a loss of crucial science labs, classrooms, arts studios and music programs.

The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court on Friday, alleges that the Department of Education:
  • Used inaccurate enrollment figures at affected high schools
  • Wrongly categorized spaces like science labs and dance studios as ordinary classrooms
  • Violated its own procedures for public notification and consultation
  • Failed to assess the environmental impact of car and bus traffic from Success Charter Academy
We believe that the Department of Education has not followed its own guidelines nor State charter laws in co-locating this elementary charter school in the Brandeis High School Complex,” said Lisa Steglich, Frank McCourt High School parent and lawsuit plaintiff. “A separate entrance, separate screening procedures, and a costly new and separate cafeteria for charter school students are not ‘comparable and equitable treatment.’ As parents of Frank McCourt High School students, we seek only to see that our children are treated fairly and are not relegated to second class status in their own school building.”

After months of trying getting through to the Department of Education, these parents have only one option left: sue the City. As a public school parent and a public official, I wholeheartedly support the Brandeis community’s lawsuit. While it’s clear the Administration is bent on proceeding no matter what parents, teachers and leaders in this community say, I am hopeful we will find justice in the court system,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

I am fiercely and righteously opposed to the imposition of this charter school on our community,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “This is not just another heated dispute about schools. It is a reprehensible land grab. Not only does this charter covet the new facilities that we created for our students at a cost of millions. They intend to divide our school and our community physically and culturally. It is morally wrong and bad school policy, but they think they will get away with it because DOE says they can. This court action is about stopping them.”

We will show that the decision of the Panel for Educational Priorities was arbitrary and capricious, and should be declared invalid,” said Marc A. Landis, a Phillips Nizer partner and an Upper West Side parent-activist. “The Department of Education failed to meet its legal obligations when it overlooked the consequences of the proposed co-location on the existing high schools, failed to provide a sufficient educational impact statement, and failed to provide any environmental impact statement.”

The voice of the people of our district is loud and clear: Success Academy does not belong in the Brandeis Campus,” said Ric Cherwin, Global Learning Collaborative Parent Association President. “Two of our schools have a very high proportion of special needs students who by law need extra space to be successful. With UWSA, these schools will have less space and their education will suffer. As has happened at other co-located schools with Success Academy, it becomes the haves vs. have-nots. Why would the DOE want to foster such a viral atmosphere?”

The voices of the parents, students and community have been completely ignored throughout every step of this process,” said State Senator Adriano Espaillat. “A legal challenge is the final opportunity to ensure that these voices are heard, and provide the students at the four other schools of this complex an uninhibited educational experience, which must be our first priority."

I stand in strong support of the students and their families who have filed suit against Success Academy Charter School," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Since this process began many months ago, I, along with a broad coalition of elected officials, community activists and concerned parents, have argued that the PEP process was rife with inadequacies, and PEP approval was based upon incorrect information. School District 3 needs more elementary and middle school seats, not a charter school, but it looks as though Success Academy will go to any lengths to open a charter school in a district that does not want it, and certainly does not need it.”

DOE has once again neglected to give the community a full, meaningful role in a local siting decision. State law, carefully crafted by my colleagues and I, intends that the community is fully notified and actively involved in these decisions from the beginning; this assuredly did not occur for this co-location proposal,” said Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell. “Additionally, the students and schools currently at the Brandeis Campus must not be denied the opportunity to grow and thrive, to offer vibrant arts, science, and physical education curricula, and to creatively instruct. All of this is threatened by the co-location under consideration.”

I am deeply concerned that the recent decision of the Department of Education to co-locate the Success Academy Charter school on the Brandeis Educational Campus was undertaken without regard for the problems this co-location imposes on both the young students who will attend the new charter elementary school and students at the five recently-established and impressive high schools on the Brandeis campus,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “As parents and students seek to prove in the lawsuit filed this week, it seems that the DOE failed in its duty to take this impact into account in making their co-location decision, despite repeated calls by parents, students and elected officials to do so.”

The DOE needs to address the parents' concerns at Brandeis and elsewhere to ensure that every child has the full access to adequate classroom, arts and recreation space,” said Congressman Charles Rangel.

Why is the DOE spending millions of dollars to squeeze in and to segregate four and five year old Success Charter students within a dedicated high school building? Worse, why are the DOE and Ms Moskowitz spending millions in taxpayer dollars bombarding Upper West Side parents with flyers and ads denigrating our local schools? It just shows that the Mayor’s and the DOE's priorities lie with the hedge-fund driven Charter schools rather than with the 96% who attend our traditional public schools,” said Noah E Gotbaum, President, CEC3.

The suit was filed by parents from the Global Learning Collaborative, Innovation Diploma Plus and Frank McCourt High Schools, who are being represented pro bono publico by Marc A. Landis, Jon Schuyler Brooks and Meagan Zapotocky of Phillips Nizer LLP. A court will hear the case on May 4th.