Hon. Tony Shorris Hon. Richard R. Buery, Jr.
First Deputy Mayor, City of New York Hon. Alicia Glen
City Hall Deputy Mayors, City of New York
New York, NY 10007 City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Re: Construction Surrounding PS 75/03M075 – Emily Dickinson School
Dear First Deputy Mayor Shorris and Deputy Mayors Buery and Glen:
As community leaders and members of Community Board 7/Manhattan, we have great concerns about the increasing number of significant construction projects adjacent to schools. We appreciate that construction is a reality of living in our City, but are keenly aware that schools present special situations in need of heightened attention and protection from the impacts of development.
We seek a coordinated response to the most pressing concerns raised by such construction adjacent to PS 75 (03M075 – the Emily Dickinson School) located on West End Avenue between West 95-96 Streets. In particular, we need to provide support and meaningful assistance to address the multiple safety issues and disruption to the learning environment that inevitably follow major construction next to this school. The need goes beyond the continuing issue of whether our schools have the capacity to absorb the enrollment of children who will reside in the family-friendly buildings that continue proliferate in our District. We have worked closely with the PS 163 community in our District for over a year in connection with monumental construction less than 30 feet away. Now PS 75 is in a similar position.
PS 75 is surrounded on three sides by soft sites that are expected to be in active construction beginning in as little as a few months and potentially continuing for many years.
The first, and perhaps most threatening, project likely to affect the school is the claimed as-of-right proposal to build a platform over the top of the existing building at 711 West End Avenue (across West 95th from the school), and then construct multiple additional floors of luxury housing above it. This complex project will create logistical, engineering and safety issues that will materially compromise the learning environment for students, teachers, administration and staff. It will also create enormous safety concerns for the school community not limited to drop-off and pick-up. This project is already having a negative impact on the residents of the existing building at 711 WEA.
Among the most pressing concerns are the blasting, noise, dust and debris that a project of this scale will have on the school, and the interference of a crane, construction materials and deliveries on West 95th Street outside a principal school entrance. West 95th Street is a busy street providing egress from the southbound Henry Hudson Parkway. Less than a year ago a neighbor was killed in front of the school by a willfully careless driver. Children should not be put is such harm's way.
Looking to the near future, the former Salvation Army Williams residence at 720 WEA across from the school, and the soft development site at the northwest corner of West 96th and WEA, will likely ensure that at least a full generation of students will come and go at PS 75 under the barrage of construction.
Similar to PS 163, PS 75's enrollment includes a significant number of families who are zoned for other schools but choose this one. That choice enrollment greatly enriches the diversity of the student body, and is highly valued by the entire community. At the same time, parents and administrators are working hard to boost enrollment so that the school can continue to support the enrichment programs central to its success. The looming threat of disruptive construction at PS 163 has already seen scores of families leave and choose different schools. We fear a similar result will happen at PS 75, meaning the loss of a diverse, high-quality school.
Our schools are focal points of our community but we don’t do enough to support them when they are facing external threats. We have grave concerns about these construction projects overall.
Our immediate concern is that the resources and expertise of City government be available to the PS 75 community to help them analyze the impact, understand what concerns and questions need to be addressed in order to mitigate any impacts and protect the student population, and secure meaningful protections. While the DoB may have limited leverage over as-of-right construction permits, careful oversight to ensure the safety of children and the vitality of a school requires a coordinated plan that includes DoB’s and other agencies’ expertise and engagement to meet these particular concerns.
To that end, we request that you convene a meeting or working group of all relevant City agencies, including the Departments of Buildings, Education, Transportation, Environmental Protection, and Health & Mental Hygiene, as well as the School Construction Authority, to meet with the PS 75 school and community leaders. The goal of such a meeting is to be proactive in protecting our schools in much the same way residential neighbors are required to be protected during construction.
We implore you to advocate for meaningful protections for the entire community, including the school community, and not to allow construction to go forward until such protections are secured.
We look forward to working with you to achieve these necessary goals.
Elizabeth Caputo Eric Shuffler Blanche Lawton
Chair, CB7 Co-chairs CB7 Youth, Education & Libraries Committee
Copy: Hon. Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker, New York City Council
Hon. Helen Rosenthal, New York City Council, 6th District
Hon. Mark Levine, New York City Council, 7th District
Hon. Gale A. Brewer, Manhattan Borough President
Hon. Scott M. Stringer, New York City Comptroller
Hon. Letitia A. James, New York City Public Advocate
Hon. Jose M. Serrano, New York State Senate, 29th District
Hon. Bill Perkins, New York State Senate, 30th District
Hon. Adriano Espaillat, New York State Senate, 31st District
Hon. Linda B. Rosenthal, New York State Assembly, 67th District
Hon. Daniel J. O’Donnell, New York State Assembly, 69th District