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September 2, 2008

The Three C's: Condos, Classrooms and Crowding

Gotham Gazette
By James Trimarco

Bruce Ratner gets a dishonorable mention in an article about the City's failure to include more classroom space while development continues apace:

The current flurry of new luxury housing construction in New York City has created a number of quandaries for the city's public schools.

The influx of students threatens to undermine the quality of nearby schools --often the very thing that helped attract young families in the first place. To further complicate matters, the high land values that good public schools help create make it increasingly difficult for the city to obtain land on which to build new ones. Developers see the expensive real estate as appropriate for only the most profitable projects, and that does not leave much room for schools.
Things can get more contentious when a development is going up on private land. Then, communities must use the various approval procedures to try to get schools included. Requests for rezoning, the city's land use process -- known as ULURP -- and City Council votes all provide some opportunities for neighborhoods to make demands. However, the amount of leverage the community can muster depends more on whether a rezoning is needed than on the urgency of their needs.

Two current cases in this category involve Sheldon Solow and Bruce Ratner, developers not known for harmonious relations with local groups.
Of course, the arm-twisting can go both ways: Bruce Ratner, who agreed to build a school at his Beekman Plaza development in Lower Manhattan, recently threatened to cease construction on it unless he received a 421-a tax abatement valid for 20 years.


NoLandGrab: The issue of classroom space was brought up by community groups two years ago at the public hearings for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

In a nutshell, Forest City Ratner's DEIS claimed that there is plenty of classroom space in the school district that includes the Atlantic Yards footprint. Neighborhood organizations pointed out that the numbers used in the study were already outdated and that the study failed to take into account students crossing district lines to attend schools that are already, technically, overcrowded.

Posted by lumi at September 2, 2008 4:52 AM