The atmosphere at the rally for a new middle school at 75 Morton St. yesterday was more like that of a festival than a protest. Supporters arrived on stilts, manned a lemonade and cookie stand, and tied balloons to their wrists as they celebrated the city’s announcement that it would seek to preserve 75 Morton St., a fully handicapped-accessible state-owned building, as a public middle school.
“I’m confident that … very soon, we will be standing outside of this building in a different way, welcoming students,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the crowd of parents, community leaders, and elected officials who assembled on Morton Street in the late-afternoon sun. The building can undergo “renovation, not construction or major reconstruction,” said Deborah Glick, the State Assembly representative from the neighborhood, and open as a fully wired middle school in 2009.
But even though activism in District 2 appears to have been successful at the site of the rally, there is room for improvement elsewhere in the district and throughout the city, speakers emphasized. “It’s not just about 75 Morton,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “It’s about your multi-million dollar capital plan.” The city’s next plan, due to go into effect next summer, must reflect coordination between education and city planning officials, he said.
“I’m distressed at all the condominiums going up, and I’m wondering where those kids will go to school,” Linda Lusskin, a member of the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, a co-sponsor of the event, told GothamSchools. Lusskin moved to the neighborhood after raising a family in Livingston, N.J., where, she said, her children sat in classes that “couldn’t have been larger than 21” kids each. Evan Neiden, a 9-year-old PS 41 student who kicked off the event, said he hopes that when he gets to middle school, classes will be small enough for his teachers to give him personal attention.
As we noted last week, District 2 is not the only area of the city where parents are clamoring for new schools; the Daily News gave an update today on plans for a new middle school in DUMBO, Brooklyn. The DOE’s Margie Feinberg told the Daily News that the upcoming capital plan will examine “pockets of overcrowding and pockets of need” in districts throughout the city, so the time is right for communities citywide to lobby for relief from overcrowding. And soon, they may have help: we heard that a District 2 parent is hard at work creating a toolkit for activists seeking to pressure the DOE into creating new schools for their communities.