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Local High School Could Move to the South Bronx

February 5, 2010

In December, Bronx Community College divulged its intention to evict University Heights Secondary School from its campus at the end of this school year, so that the college can better accommodate a growing student body.

The decision maddened parents, teachers, and students at the school, as well as local politicians, who have been speaking out against BCC.

The Department of Education, meanwhile, has been busy hunting for a new site for the school, and on Feb. 2 announced they’d found one: the South Bronx High School Campus, at 701 St. Ann’s Ave. (near East 156th Street).

The building currently houses New Explorers High School, Urban Assembly Careers in Sports and Mott Haven Village Preparatory High School. New Explorers and Urban Assembly are scheduled to move into a new facility in the fall, which will free up space, the DOE said.

The proposal will be discussed at a public hearing on March 11, at the South Bronx High School Campus. The final decision rests with the city’s Panel for Educational Policy.


Related articles:
Opinion: BCC Must Rethink Decision to Evict High School
School Community and Local Politicians Criticize Plans to Relocate High School
BCC to Expel University Heights Secondary School

It’s Official: PS 204 To Take Over New Building

February 5, 2010


The city’s Panel for Educational Policy voted on Jan. 27 to approve the phaseout of 19 public schools, five of which are in the Bronx. The reason: poor student performance. (One Bronx school, Alfred E. Smith High School, was previously slated for the chopping block, but survived to fight another day.)

Many parents, teachers, and students at the condemned schools were left fuming. They said the closures were undeserved. But not everyone had a bad night. PS 204, a highly-rated elementary school in Morris Heights, received a green light from the Panel to move into a new building at 1780 University Ave. 

This means PS 204 will be saying goodbye – and good riddance – to its current building, a dilapidated, castle-like structure and one-time synagogue located at 108 W. 174th St.

In a telephone interview, the school’s principal Marcy Glattstein called the new location a “gorgeous site” which will offer “all the things that the children of this school have not had” – including a gym, a library, and an auditorium.

Glattstein said the move, scheduled for the summer, in time for the new school year, was “long overdue.”

The school community – notably the parents – supported the move and made their voices heard, Glattstein added, which helped get the Department of Education on board. By law, the Panel has the final say, but their board members rarely vote against the DOE’s wishes.

Local politicians also backed the relocation. “I’m so happy that 204 is going to move into this building,” said Assemblymember Vanessa Gibson, speaking at a Community Board 5 meeting on Wednesday.

As an added bonus, the move will enable PS 204 to close its satellite location at 1732 Davidson Ave., and bring all its students under one roof. The new building – known as PS/IS 338 – will also house a 60-seat District 75 program, for special needs students.

Carl C. Icahn South Bronx Charter School, a school in Morrisania, will relocate to PS 204’s current building, the former synagogue, according to the DOE. Will Havemann, a spokesman, said in December that the department would address some of the issues parents and teachers have raised about that building, but it’s unclear what will be done. The DOE didn’t respond to specific questions.

“The building is deteriorating. It’s not meant to be a school,” Ted Garcia, president of Community Education Council 9, previously told the Monitor.

Related articles:
DOE Close to Finalizing Plans for New Building
PS 204 Teachers, Parents: Current Building Not Up to Par

Morris Heights Co-ops Still Available

February 5, 2010




At 150 Featherbed Lane, on the corner of University Avenue, construction of a new co-op building is nearing completion.

All 48 apartments come with their own washing machine and dryer. Several units have private terraces. There will be parking, and, on the first floor, retail space.

Prices start at $67,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, and rise to $223,000 for a larger space. Income restrictions apply.

“For too long, Bronx residents have rented apartments,” said Radame Perez of Mastermind Management, the Bronx-based outfit behind the project. He added: “This is a community that is healthy; a strong vibrant neighborhood, and this project will show that.”

Around 15 contracts have been signed so far, meaning 30-something apartments are still available. For more information, or an application form, please call (718) 933-1353 or email wbvhome@gmail.com.

The first homeowners are expected to move in in March, Perez said.

Related article: Cheap Co-Ops Coming to Morris Heights

Opinion: BCC Must Rethink Decision to Evict High School

February 5, 2010


Rebecca Thomas’ thoughtful article requires elaboration:

1) Bronx Community College claims rapid growth in enrollment is the single cause forcing it to expel University Heights Secondary School (UHHS). This is an unstable basis for a specious argument. Several years from now, when the economy recovers, and students return to four-year institutions, BCC will become a ghost town. It’s illogical to evict a successful high school for what is only a temporary aberration.

2) BCC doesn’t use its own space efficiently. Classrooms and entire buildings sit empty because of poor planning or poor maintenance. The successful educational culture of UHHS must not be sacrificed because BCC’s administration is near-sighted and verging on incompetence. If, as one UHHS student pointed out at the recent town hall meeting, BCC claims they will have nearly 4,000 new students, how will they seat them all by capturing one building that handles 400—one tenth of their purported growth? BCC will gain marginally by commandeering this building but the impact upon the high school will be devastating and permanent. An independent entity must be mandated to survey the entire campus, and offer an alternative plan.

3) BCC Vice-President, Mary Colman, is outrageously trying to pit the students of BCC against UHHS students. To argue that BCC must choose between either their “own” students or those of the high school, is an attempt to force a wedge between people who are all in the same boat. BCC doesn’t have to sacrifice one group of deserving kids to serve another. With thought, both can be well served on this huge 56-acre campus.

4) UHHS has been successful (three consecutive A ratings from the Department of Education, putting it in the top 13 percent of high school citywide; millions of dollars in scholarships won annually by its students) for two very important reasons:

a) Studying on a college campus not only inspires youngsters to strive toward higher education: a high percentage of UHHS students take college level courses at BCC. This engenders a high graduation rate: 85 percent in 2009 compared to roughly 60 percent citywide and between 36-52 percent in the Bronx – depending upon whom you believe. The most important fact supporting this assertion: The vast majority of UHHS graduates – 81 percent – go on to college.

b) The campus is a safe haven in the most dangerous borough in New York City and the poorest urban county in the United States. Students don’t pass through metal detectors or suffer the indignities of being wanded entering their building. If you attend a school that feels like jail and treats you like a prisoner, you are more likely to behave like a prisoner than a scholar.

5) The DOE must help solve this problem. If BCC has its heart set upon full 24-hour use of Nicholls Hall (current home of UHHS), then the DOE should build a new state-of-the-art high school on the BCC campus for the University Heights community. Once it is up and running and UHHS is moved in, Nicholls Hall can be reprogrammed for BCC’s needs. UHHS must remain on this campus. It is the only high school in this council district. In the meantime, BCC and UHHS can share Nicholls Hall. The building is only used by the high School during normal school hours. What about evenings for college students? What about weekends? This is a workable interim solution while building the new school.

6) Where is the Teachers Union (UFT) in this battle? Many dedicated teachers have spent their entire careers working at UHHS. It is unconscionable to allow the city to squander the work of these successful pedagogues who have labored for decades building a strong school. Inaction by the union won’t be tolerated by its rank and file. The UFT must protect its teachers from reprisals by an ungrateful or embarrassed DOE.

7) Finally, UHHS’ school community— parents, students, alums, teachers, staff and many former students now attending BCC, spoke unequivocally at the meeting – “We will negotiate in a public forum. But we will not be moved!” As Captain John Parker said to his small band of Minutemen on Lexington Green facing the better-armed British army on April 19, 1776—“Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a way, let it begin here.” We know who won that war.

Legiardi-Laura has been a guest teaching-artist at University Heights High School for the past eight years.

Councilman Cabrera Delivers Aid to Haiti

February 5, 2010

After returning from Haiti on a brief aid mission, Councilman Fernando Cabrera, his voice hoarse from sickness and exhaustion, described some of the horrific scenes he encountered in the days after an earthquake ravaged the area around the Caribbean nation’s capital.

“It was like if you walked down Broadway and every other building or more were completely destroyed,” he said.

“It was horrible,” he said. “I saw dead people. One house was crushed. There was a girl, you could tell she almost made it out because her hand was sticking out.”

Cabrera, his daughter and about a dozen members of the Latin African-American Chaplain Association (LACA), flew a few thousand dollars worth of supplies — antibiotics, bandages, water purification tablets, baby food and more – to the Dominican Republican on Jan. 18, six days after the quake. They then drove the load into Port-au-Prince.

Cabrera raised money through donations from his church, New Life Outreach International.

Fritz Jean, Mount Hope Housing Company’s CEO, and a first-generation Haitian, was among those who helped organize the trip.


A version of this article first appeared in the Norwood News.

Espada Finds Himself in Hot Water Again

February 5, 2010




Pedro Espada, Jr., the embattled state senator who represents a large swath of the west Bronx, is once again defending himself against accusations of impropriety and illegal activity.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office says it has discovered “extensive evidence” of illegal activities by Espada involving his nonprofit Soundview Healthcare Network and a private for-profit management company he created in the months leading up to his 2008 state Senate campaign. Cuomo’s office says the evidence suggests Espada funneled money from Soundview into his campaign, violating several state laws.

No charges have been filed yet, but Cuomo’s office says Espada and his attorneys have refused to cooperate with a nine-month-old investigation.

Espada, who is no stranger to this type of controversy, said the Cuomo investigation is nothing more than a “witch-hunt.”

On Jan. 13, in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, Cuomo’s office filed a “motion to compel” Espada to produce documents related to the attorney general’s investigation. Cuomo’s office subpoenaed documents on Aug. 25, but it says Espada failed to produce all but two of them.

In a statement, Espada said he has already complied by sending “tens of thousands of documents” that Cuomo, who is eyeing a gubernatorial run later this year, has requested.

“This is an Andrew Cuomo witch-hunt driven by his political ambitions, as evidenced in the fact that our attorneys had to learn of this complaint through the media,” Espada said in the statement.

Regardless, Cuomo wants more and he will probably need it if he wants to come up with something that sticks on Espada, who has narrowly escaped punishment in the past.

Cuomo’s office says that Espada set up a for-profit management company called Soundview Management Company, which he controls. In 2008, the nonprofit Soundview Health Care Network, which Espada heads, awarded the management company a $400,000-a-year maintenance contract.

Before 2008, court documents reveal, Soundview spent $270,000 on maintenance. Cuomo’s office says that Espada’s management company didn’t do any additional work and that at least a portion of that contract money was used to pay for his 2008 campaign expenses, including a salary for his son, Pedro G. Espada.

The court filing by Cuomo’s office notes that this scenario is similar to the one that landed four of Espada’s employees in prison in 2005. Those employees pleaded guilty to “diverting monies and grants to pay campaign expenses for Espada.” It also notes that Soundview paid the legal fees for those employees, “which may also be a violation of the not-for-profit law and is currently under investigation.”

Since Espada was elected in the fall of 2008, he has been under investigation by the Bronx District Attorney for allegedly not living in the district where he was elected. His health care network is also being investigated by Cuomo’s office for possibly lying on a grant application.

Ironically, Espada took over the 33rd District Senate seat from Efrain Gonzalez, who pleaded guilty last summer to using state funds for his own personal use.

Espada is up for re-election this fall.

A version of this article orginally appeared in the Norwood News.

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