640-seat Middle School Considered for Red Hook

Tamar Smith of the SCA giving the presentation. (Megan McGibney/BKLYNER)

RED HOOK – About 30 parents, local business owners, and representatives of the Urban Assembly Harbor School gathered at P.S. 676 The Red Hook Neighborhood School, along with State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, and District 15’s superintendent Anita Skop, to go over the possibility of a 640-seat middle school coming to Red Hook.

The school, commonly called “The Harbor Middle School”, will be a pipeline for the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on Governor’s Island. That school, according to its website, “provides a college and career preparatory education built upon New York City’s maritime experience.”

“From that school, no one faces unemployment,” State Senator Velmanette Montgomery told those at the meeting, which was jointly held by CEC 15 and CB6’s Youth, Human Services and Education Committee. “We’re preparing students for SUNY Maritime. You won’t know how it’s taken us to get to this wonderful point.”

Montgomery, who only stayed for several minutes at the beginning of the meeting, gave out flyers which chronicled the development of the middle school, dating back to August 2012. In recent months, a site has been identified in Red Hook, located at 21-31 Delavan Street, currently a two-story industrial building and a vacant lot located next to Coffey Park.

If such a school were to built, it would serve the students of District 15, which covers Red Hook, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Sunset Park, Gowanus, Windsor Terrace and Carroll Gardens.

Tamar Smith, the Community Relations Manager at the School Construction Authority (SCA), presented a short presentation of the site, which sits on 60,000 square feet, or 1.37 acres. She stressed that the location is not definite (see the SCA filing here for full details)

“Right now, we’re in negotiations with the owner,” Smith said. “We can never own anything until the process is done.”

That led to a question of eminent domain, which she insisted there was no discussion of at all. But later, when an attendee pressed her further on it, Smith replied, “It could be pursued. That is also the last resort. Could it happen in the future, we don’t know. We’ll do everything we can to avoid it.”

Other questions referred to exact number of seats the school is expected to have. Reports have either said 640 seats, or 650.

“It’s 640, give or take a bit,” said Suzanne Turet, co-chair of CB6’s Youth, Human Services and Education Committee.

There were discussions of the exact curriculum at Harbor Middle School, which Superintendent Anita Skop said, “Children who are skilled at maritime should be skilled in reading, critical thinking.” She also pointed out that not all the students at the school would automatically attend the high school on Governor’s Island.

“If they want to study marine biology,” she said. “There’s more science-y schools for that.”

One local businessman expressed his concern for the logistics of the school, which may sit near Red Hook’s Industrial Business Zone, with little public transportation. “I can’t see 20 buses coming down the street when you have tractor trailers right across the street,” he said.

Skop answered, “They [the students] are not bused. There are no buses. They would take the normal transportation in the area.”

District 15’s superintendent Anita Skop answers questions. (Megan McGibney/BKLYNER)

Another attendee questioned if Red Hook would be a good location, considering it was badly damaged from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. To which Smith replied, “We are well aware of the issues.”

The 90-minute gathering concluded with optimism for the site, though Skop pointed out they were at the infancy of the process.

Smith also told attendees that they have until December 23rd to contact the SCA to express questions, comments or requests regarding the site, before any action can be taken.

To contact the SCA regarding the Harbor Middle School, send an email to sites@nycsca.org. The SCA will continue to accept public comments on this proposal until December 23 2017.

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