Sign the Petition

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Could Beacon HS be the Temp Site for P.S. 199 or P.S. 191?

New York Press reports on CB7's Youth, Education and Libraries Committee meeting from last week.

The committee also discussed the Beacon Building Working Group, which was formed in March to deal with future plans for what will be a vacant space when the Beacon School relocates. Beacon High School will be moving from their current location on West 61st Street to a new spot on West 44th Street in the autumn of 2015. Mark Diller, who chairs the Beacon Building Working Group, addressed concerns in the community that the organization would simply serve as a rubber stamp to approve Beacon as an interim space for P.S. 199 (270 W. 70th St.) or P.S. 191 (210 W. 61st St.), both sites that Department Of Education (DOE) has shown interest in reconstructing.

Read the Full Article. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

NYC Mayoral Education Debate this Thursday

A forum on the future of public education in NYC with Democratic primary mayoral candidates. Moderated by
Diane Ravitch
Thursday May 2nd
5:30-7:00 pm
PS 29 (425 Henry Street, Brooklyn)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Funding Public Services Through Real Estate Development

Listen to a recent segment on the Brian Lehrer show.  It's doesn't talk about the school but it does address the basic issues of selling public land.

Julia Vitullo-Martin, director of the Center for Urban Innovation at the Regional Plan Association and Tom Angotti, director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and development, discuss the tactic of funding public housing projects, libraries, schools and post offices through developing real estate.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Our Guest Post in Vanishing New York

Vanishing New York is a fantastic blog dedicated to writing about the wonderful sites and neighborhoods in NYC that are disappearing.  Please read our guest post and look through the site.

Here's an excerpt from our post:

The Lincoln Square community has undergone major upheaval over the past few years, with the building of countless high rises, including the Trump Buildings on Riverside Boulevard, all of which have significantly changed the neighborhood from a close-knit, family-friendly community to something very different, a place unaffordable to many. These real-estate developments have also disrupted long-established school catchments and contributed to major overcrowding in schools. As a result, many children are forced to sit on waiting lists for their local public schools.

Read the Entire Post Here. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New York Times Article on City Selling Public Land

More about the City grabbing public land for private development.  This recent New York Times article is about displacing a local community center for a luxury high-rise.

The center has been here in East Harlem, amid public-housing towers that are home to about 3,480 residents, for more than 55 years. Most of the programming comes through the Union Settlement Association: after-school, summer, tutoring, arts, college prep, job readiness, fatherhood, re-entry, teen night, mental health and life skills.
Six days a week, the center draws people from as far as Staten Island. But lately there has been fear in the neighborhood, inspired by a plan of the New York City Housing Authority to raze the building housing the center for private residential development.

Read the Full Article. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

NYTs Op-Ed Piece on Midtown East Development - Some Simularities

A piece penned by Robert A.M. Stern questioning Bloomberg's push to redevelop Midtown East without proper foresight and planning, similar to how the push is being made to develop the PS 199 site and other school sites in the city.  Some highlights:

Protecting the integrity of the area:

Are we preparing to make the same mistake again, on multiple sites? The rezoning study makes no mention of protected-view corridors. Can we guarantee that in the future the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building will not be lost in thickets of taller buildings?
Planning backwards, infrastructure should come first:

And what of our streets and subway platforms? I commute through Grand Central several times a week, and at 6:20 a.m., when I catch my train to New Haven, the terminal is already full of people. When I return at 6:30 or 7 p.m., I can hardly make my way to the stairways and escalators that lead to the Lexington Avenue subway platforms.
How will the added workers quartered in these new buildings get from their trains to their desks? The plan says that special assessments and payments in lieu of taxes will guarantee “pedestrian network improvements as development occurs.” There is nothing wrong with privately financed infrastructure improvements. But the study, if I read it correctly, gets it backward: first you put in the infrastructure, then you build the buildings. Look at the example of Grand Central, the private enterprise that spurred all this development in the first place.

Read the full piece here. Article about plans for the Beacon HS Building has an article about plans for the Beacon High School building.  A new Beacon High School is being built and the DOE is working on plans for the old building.

One possibility mentioned in the article:
But the planned walk-through, which does not yet have a scheduled date, has sparked concerns that the Department of Education may be eyeing the Beacon building as a new home for P.S. 191, if the city goes forward with its proposal to tear down both P.S. 191 and P.S. 199 and replace them with privately developed high-rises.
Promises have been made concerning the process for PS 191 and PS 199 but as far as we know nothing  has been put into writing:
In response to parents' concerns about the proposed demolition of P.S. 191 and P.S. 199, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott committed at a recent town hall meeting to get more feedback from residents before moving forward with the plans. Walcott assured anxious parents that the DOE's Educational Construction Fund, the arm that proposed the two school sites for private redevelopment, was not on the verge of issuing a request for development proposals, said Shuffler, who attended the town hall."[Walcott] did state very clearly that he would allow community input before the RFPs went out," added Maack, who also attended the meeting.

Read more:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Support CDL and Help Save NYC Libraries

I've posted before about how the PS 199 issue is just one piece of a large effort by the City to sell off public land.  

An organization called Citizens Defending Libraries has been formed to fight the City on the closing and selling of libraries throughout NYC.

Library Protection Week has already brought the issue of the sell off and shrinkage of libraries to thousands of New Yorkers who knew nothing about it.  Come to the big event tomorrow at City Hall Park, where our City Comptroller John Liu will speak, 

Thursday, April 18th
12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. 
Steps of City Hall at Broadway and Chambers Streets, downtown Manhattan. 

Arrive early to get through security.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Meet the Mayoral Candidates this Thursday

Community Free Democrats &
Goddard Riverside Community Center 


Thursday, April 18th, 8:00 p.m.
Goddard Riverside Community Center
593 Columbus Ave @ West 88th Street

Hear from the candidates in their own words about their vision for our city and what problems they will tackle on behalf of all New Yorkers.  

Sal Albanese
Bill de Blasio
John Liu
Christine Quinn
Bill Thompson
Moderated by Dr. Ken Sherrill, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Hunter College
No RSVP required; the meeting is free and open to all!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Coverage in the New York Observer

Preservationists Agitate to Save Durell Stone-Designed PS 199 From Demolition

By Kim Velsey 

Ever since the Department of Education posted a Request for Expressions of Interest in three public school sites late this fall—seeking proposals for three “prime development sites” that included PS 199 on West 70th Street—the local community has risen up in protest.
As with other such sites, it’s almost certain that no matter what developer the city selects, the plan will involve a luxury condo tower on the 99,000 square-foot site with a replacement school on the tower’s lower levels.
And while DOE has not yet made any final decisions about the site, the possibility that the school might be razed has not only angered the contingent of parents and teachers that one would expect to be riled by such an announcement, but also preservationists, who are now mobilizing to protest the destruction of the 1963 building, designed by the noted modernist architect Edward Durell Stone.

Go to Full Article

Help Landmark PS 199

Landmark West is work hard to save PS 199.  You can help by following the easy steps to send a postcard to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Committee.

Click here to send an email "postcard" to Hon. Robert Tierney, Chair of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC) and urge the LPC to hold an emergency public hearing to designate P.S. 199 an official NYC Landmark.
It is especially urgent that Commission act now to save P.S. 199. Designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Edward Durell Stone in 1963, P.S. 199 is currently threatened with demolition by the Department of Education Construction Fund. Read coverage of this issue in the New York TimesWest Side RagThe Daily News and DNAInfo.


Mark Landis, Candidate for City Council Statement re PS 199

Here's an excerpt:

I call upon both NYC DOE and NYCHA to submit these proposals through ULURP, to provide for a full analysis of the environmental impact of each proposal, and to abide by any ULURP determinations. These proposed developments are likely to increase traffic, create additional demand for seats in already-overcrowded local schools, and impact the character of the neighborhood. Both proposals will inevitably reduce open and “green” spaces. Some sites may require environmental remediation; the NYC DOE projects also require finding safe, convenient temporary school locations so that educational activities are not disturbed – which will be next to impossible to find!

Going forward, we must ensure that any future proposals of this type and magnitude are required to be subject to ULURP, so that the general public, community boards and elected officials can do their jobs by having a full and fair opportunity to review, common upon and approve or disapprove of future proposals.

Read the full statement here. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Community Education Council Meeting

You you can do so, please attend this meeting.  The proposed plans for PS 199 and PS 191 will be on the agenda.

Overcrowding & Space Utilization Committee
Monday, April 15th at 6pm
Community Educational Council District 3
JOA Room 204, 154 W. 93rd St.
P.S. 199 and 191 are the top agenda

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Note from Chancellor Walcott's Town Hall

A note from Chancellor Walcott's Town Hall.  There was no new news but an assurance was made - verbally, nothing in writing:  The Chancellor promised that the community would be engaged before the next step, if there is a next step, the next step being a Request for Proposal (RFP).

The form of such engagement was not specified.  It must be remembered that the DOE has total control over this process.  The ECF has been granted that control by law.

BUT:  Remember, it is an election year and our voices and concerns matter this year more than most.

After the meeting, we had the chance to briefly speak with the Chancellor and give him a copy of our Petition.

Here is the follow up letter from Mark Diller, Chair of CB7 to Chancellor Walcott.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Amended Community Board 7 Resolution

Below is the wording of the Resolution asking the DOE to engage the community before taking the next step of releasing an RFP.

"THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT Community Board 7/Manhattan calls on the
Department of Education, the School Construction Authority and the Educational Construction Fund to:

1. Prior to the formulation and release of any RFP relating to these sites, work with CB7 to conduct immediate,
consistent and meaningful public outreach to all constituencies in the affected community
and solicit public comment and concerns relating to all phases and aspects of the proposed

2. Recognize and work with CB7 to establish a structure for regular and on-going discourse between DOE and community stakeholders (parents, teachers, administrators, local residents), agencies (DOE, DOB, City Planning, etc.), and elected City, State, and Federal officials regarding any concepts and/or proposal related to the proposed sites.

3. Provide a written commitment that the key aspects of any redevelopment proposal for these
sites be subject to ULURP."

Comments on the NY Daily News Story / Problems with ECF/DOE Projects

This comment was made in the article:

“There is so much misinformation,” said Douglas MacLaury, senior vice president of the Mattone Group, one of the developers vying for the PS 199 site. “The neighborhood gets a brand new school paid for by the residential development that rises on the site. This is a win-win for the neighborhood, children, city, and the developer.”

Not really true.  The latest ECF/DOE projects were poorly planned and are over crowded. After 4 years of displacement, the last ECF project, PS 59, opened with 1st grade and kindergarden wait-listing and a scrapped pre-K program. See the following articles:

Moreover, the developer lost financing and is only now looking to complete the project, see the Wall Street Journal article.

You can read more background information on our start here page.

News of our Efforts in the NY Daily News

"Upper West Side parents are blasting a little-known city program that lets private developers tear down old schools to make room for luxury housing and a new educational facility, saying the approach hastens overdevelopment and bypasses the normal public approval process.

The Department of Education’s Education Construction Fund is eying three such sites — but is encountering resistance at Public School 199 on W. 70th St., designed by the modern architect Edward Durell Stone."

Read more:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Wall Street Journal Highlights Problems with Past ECB/DOE Projects

"The World-Wide project came a result of a complex public-private partnership. The site actually is owned by the city's Department of Education, which in 2006 agreed to lease it to World-Wide for 75 years. As part of the deal, World-Wide agreed to rebuild two aging schools now on the site: an elementary school and a 1,400-student high school. 
The agreement was billed by the city as an innovative way to pay for new schools, given that the proceeds from the lease—which the city in 2006 said would be worth $325 million—would more than cover the price tag for the school construction.
After the downturn hit, the tower plans were put on ice. But World-Wide went ahead with construction of the schools, which were built on the same property in a way that also left space to build the tower. The schools, which were paid for by the city, opened in the fall, and the developer also built adjacent retail space that now holds a Whole Foods."

This development raises the question of how the school was paid for when the developer postponed the building of the tower when they lost funding.  Did the city go out of pocket contrary to the so called advantage of this pubic/private development?

Go to the Full Article

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Assemblyperson O'Donnell's Bill to Require ULURP and Community Involvement for PS 199 and 191

To read the full bill go here.

The Larger Context of City Privatization

What the city is proposing with the development of public school sites fits into a larger trend of privatization of public lands in the city.

See this article on Damrosch Park where the city is allowing the use of a public park for private profit.

This New York Times article about selling off Public Libraries.

And even worse, the proposed private developments of NYCHA properties as described here and here.

Two Excerpts from the West Side Rag Article

Here are two excerpts specifically about our efforts fromt the West Side Rag article:
"Here’s what some people are doing to try to stop or slow the process:
  • David Saphier, who lives near PS 199, has started a site called 199 Demolition: Community Share Center that has lots of information on the proposals, a fuill library of documents, and regular updates about the project and meetings about it. If you’re at all interested, it’s definitely worth checking out the site and getting on his email list. Saphier has also created  a petition that already has more than 400 signatures (they’re aiming for at least 500) asking the city to stop the process. “We are asking that the proposal to demolish P.S. 199 end and that a more appropriate solution to our neighborhood’s needs be developed in close cooperation with the Lincoln Square community,” the petition says.You can read and consider signing it here. Saphier says that if you contact him through the site, he can send paper copies of the petition."

"One quick note: we have heard from some people that there is no other room for new schools in this area. But private schools have found all sorts of space: The Mandell Schoolleased a large space in The Aire on West 67th street, and Collegiate is building a new schoolbetween West 61st and West 62nd. The city, meanwhile, has failed to prepare for the influx of new children after a huge building boom in the 2000′s, notes Saphier. These demolition plans will add more kids, and there are few indications that the new schools will be much larger than the current ones. Says Saphier:
“The city is not broke now but it does have a problem in that much real estate development was encourage by the Bloomberg administration with no provision for additional education resources. The PS 199 school district had a population increase of nearly 50% between 2000 and 2010 (Manhattan as a whole increased 3%) and yet tax breaks were given to developers with no provision for addition classroom space. The city and the DOE are now trying to correct their poor planning on the backs of an already over burdened neighborhood and the school children involved.”

Read the Full Article 

See our Coverage in the West Side Rag


New efforts are underway to stop or slow the process of demolishing two local public schools so that developers can build high-rises with new schools in their place.
Parents and local residents near PS 199, on West 70th street, have been especially active trying to stop the plans. And State Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell has introduced a new bill that would make the city use a public process to get the developments approved.
First, some background: months ago, the city put out a“request for expressions of interest” (RFEI) to developers asking them if they were interested in building new high-rises on land that currently houses PS 199 on 70th street and PS 191 on 61st street, as well as a third school on the Upper East Side. The Department of Education didn’t tell parents at the school that it was doing this. The new buildings built on the sites following demolition of the current schools would have new public schools inside them, paid for using tax-exempt bonds backed by taxpayer funds. Lease payments from developers would help fund the bond payments, meaning the city would presumably spend much less money than if the school was built using just public money.
According to drawings, parts of the new schools would be located underground — at PS 199, part of the school would be on the same level as the building’s parking garage. The residential portion of the building on 70th could be as tall as 34 stories, or 46 stories with a special permit. At the one on 61st, the building could be 20 stories, or 36 with a special permit.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Statement from Ken Biberaj, Candidate for CIty Council, District 6

West Side City Council Candidate Responds to City’s Plan for Demolition and
Redevelopment of P.S. 191 and P.S. 199

New York City (April 3, 2013)- Democratic City Council Candidate (6th district - Upper West Side), Ken Biberaj, issued a statement about the news that the City is entertaining plans to tear down P.S. 191 and P.S. 199.  It was recently reported that the Department of Education had requested proposals to demolish P.S. 191, P.S. 199, and a school on the Upper East Side and replace them with high-rise apartments and new schools on the ground level.  The initial report came as a shock to our neighborhood.  While more details continue to emerge about the plan, our students, parents, and community deserve full involvement in this process.
“Like many on the Upper West Side, I have serious concerns about the plan to demolish P.S. 191 and P.S. 199 and that the community was not approached at the outset.  Public education in our neighborhood is reaching a crisis point and while we have a desperate need for more quality seats for our growing family population, it has to be balanced with over development on the West Side” said City Council candidate Ken Biberaj.  “Any plan to rebuild these schools within a new development must be done in a responsible and transparent way. The community must be involved in the decisions that are made so that we ensure that if there is a development it creates additional school seats, provides affordable housing and addresses the serious concerns about increased density. Far too much development has taken place over the years on the UWS without our community getting enough in return. This practice needs to stop. “

Statement from Noah Gotbaum, Candidate for City Council, District 6


By Noah Gotbaum | West Side Spirit | February 28, 2013
Concerns that the Department of Education has offered PS 199 (West 70th St) and PS 191 (West 61st St) as development sites to be demolished and then rebuilt inside of luxury apartment towers has spread like wildfire through our community.  And with good reason.  DOE’s consultants drafted and distributed a detailed 80-page “Request for Expressions of Interest” memorandum for developers interested in the sites - and subsequently received dozens of draft plans – which could hugely and negatively impact thousands of children, families and community members without so much as a phone call to our elected officials, Community Board 7, Community Education Council (CEC3), and the affected school communities.
And while ensuring multiple and attractive “benefits” to the prospective developers – including “markets starved of luxury housing” – the DOE memorandum is far less concerned with the negative impacts on our schools and community. The memorandum neither requests nor proposes a definitive and clear plan or discussion of the developers’ (or the DOE’s) responsibilities to our families and community during construction or even where those displaced students would go. Equally troubling, the proposal expects that the new schools will be no larger than the current schools. This despite significant overcrowding district-wide – including at 199 as well as 191 – and a district-wide push for new seats, especially at the middle school level. Incredibly, the DOE proposal doesn’t even require developers to provide additional space for the influx of hundreds of additional school-age families who inevitably will be drawn to the new developments which actively market our schools as a key amenity.

Noah Gotbaum Campaign Kick-off at PS 199 this Saturday

Campaign Kickoff

Saturday, April 06, 2013 at 12:00 PM
PS 199 in New York, NY
Join Noah, his children, former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, parents, community members, and Chubby the English mastiff, for Noah’s Campaign Kickoff.

Note:  This is not an endorsement but it is an opportunity to show support for the opposition of the PS 199 proposal and to hand out flyers!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

News from the West Side Rag


Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott is coming to the Upper West Side on April 10, and the local community education council wants to hear your questions. They’d like to get the questions by April 1, so think fast!
The District 3 Community Education Council is asking District 3 Parents and Guardians to submit their top 5 concerns for District 3 to by Monday April 1st in preparation for the Town Hall.
Maybe, just maybe, Walcott will answer all of the myriad questions that the DOE has failed to answer about the plan to demolish PS 199 and PS 191 and replace them with high-rises with schools inside.
Info on the town hall below:

Joint Town Hall Meeting
With Chancellor Dennis Walcott
And the
Community Education Council District 3
April 10, 2013
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Wadleigh Educational Complex
215 W. 114th St.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Press Recognition

Our efforts are starting to get some press recognition:

The Real Deal


The Architecture of PS199

Public School 199
270 West 70th Street between Amsterdam and West End Avenue
Edward Durell Stone 1963

PS 199, officially named the Jesse Isador Straus School, stands stoutly at three stories high in the shadow of the Lincoln Towers Complex.  The school was built in a Title One redevelopment area, which included Lincoln Center and the Lincoln Towers.  The Board of Education commissioned well-known architect, Edward Durell Stone, to design PS 199.  Stone’s first major commission was in 1937 for the Museum of Modern Art, which he designed with Philip L. Goodwin.  

Then, beginning in the 1950s, Stone’s architectural aesthetic changed.  In a “move toward elegance,” Stone broke with the International Style and started designing sleek buildings with classical aspects.  The U.S. embassy in New Delhi was Stone’s first major work after this transformation and it is one of his most intricate and memorable designs.  PS 199, although not quite as elaborate as the embassy, is representative of Stone’s new aesthetic.  The school’s 166 thin, glazed white brick piers are faithful to Stone’s love of repetitive columns and are evocative of a grand colonnade.  

Classical patterning is illustrated in the concentric squares inscribed beneath the roof’s overhang.  Keeping in mind that people would be looking down at the top of the school from the surrounding apartment buildings, Stone tried to make the roof clean and aesthetically pleasing.  He cut out the center of the roof creating an open-air play space on the third floor of the school.  The building’s materials are simple: brick, glass, and metal.  However, the combination of shiny glass, dark brick, and white glazed piers create a striking contrast.  PS 199 has undoubtedly increased in significance because of the fate of 2 Columbus Circle.  

Stone’s 1964 design for the Gallery of Modern Art at 2 Columbus Circle was radical and innovative for the time and unfortunately has been lost.  PS 199 continues the neoclassical spirit of Stone’s unique form of Modernism on the Upper West Side and should be preserved in its own right and in memory of 2 Columbus Circle. 

Thanks to Landmark West for providing this description. 

Letter from Mel Wymore, Candidate for City Council, District 6

Historical Information on PS199

Thanks to Landmark West we have added newspaper clippings and historical information about PS199 and it's architectural significance to our document library.  You can find the documents under the 199 History and Landmark folder towards the bottom of our documents page.