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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Good News on Schools Front

As promised, two pieces of good news for the Bronx! It's about schools.

1) The city has identified a parking lot on Webster Avenue near 205th Street as a possible location for a brand new 612-seat, pre-K through 8th grade school, the Department of Education has confirmed.

This would be the first school structure not being built on a playground in District 10 (the third most crowded district in New York City) in years, a major victory for school advocates like the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, whose membership was outraged when the latest capital plan again short-changed the borough.

The DOE warned that this is far from a done deal. The site has not been purchased, but the DOE is internally reviewing whether to buy it, which is the first step toward the idea becoming a reality.

2) The U.S. Army Reserve is vacating a facility and giving it up for another use in Wakefield as part of an overarching plan by the U.S. military's Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (otherwise known as BRAC).

This is great news for school advocates who want to see schools in the Kingsbridge Armory's northern annex buildings.

Currently, the annex buildings house somewhere around 125 to 140 state military soldiers and staffers. They are open to moving, but need to find a new home, one that won't cost them anything, before they go anywhere, according to Eric Durr, a spokesman for the State Division of Military and Naval Affairs.

They want to stay in the Bronx, Durr said. If they leave the Boogie Down, the Bronx would be the only borough without a state military presence.

Here's where it gets tricky. Durr, who admittedly did not know exactly how BRAC works, said what most likely will happen is that once the Army Reserve vacates the Wakefield facility (Durr estimated that probably wouldn't occur till 2011), it would be turned over to a local re-use authority which believed would consist of people in the community. That authority would then decided what to do with the facility.

A local school activist told us the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which is also handling the Armory project, is looking into the possibility of relocating the units currently housed in the Armory into the Wakefield facility. The EDC hasn't returned a phone call or an email requesting confirmation of this. We'll continue to look into this and provide updates whenever possible.

So, while none of this is concrete, it is positive movement in the right direction and could lead to good things for the future of Bronx education.

See, told you, good news!

Update: Here's what the EDC said about the Wakefield facility, which is called the Sgt. Joseph A. Muller Army Reserve Center. The biggest thing is that the facility is in the hands of the mayor and the Bronx borough president. From EDC spokesperson, Janel Patterson in an e-mail:

"In 2007, the Department of Army identified the Sgt. Joseph A. Muller Army Reserve Center as surplus property and slated it for closure. In December 2008, the Department of Defense recognized the Muller Local Redevelopment Authority as the official local redevelopment authority for the Muller Army Reserve Center. The Muller LRA consists of the Bronx Borough President, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. Pursuant to the Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless Assistance Act of 1994, the Muller LRA is currently seeking notices of interest for the Muller Army Reserve Center. The Muller LRA will continue to comply with all requirements of the base redevelopment planning process, and will ultimately determine the future use of the property."


  1. the news seems good, but between the lines there might be a conflict.

    you're right. the military clearing out can only help kingsbridge armory agendas...

    ... and the news of a new school is excellent, of course. but.... this gives the DOE and the city justification (in its own mind) to deny the community's long-held agenda of having schools in the armory.

    'hey, why do you need schools in the armory... you just got a new one in the district? and while we're at it, this way related can have the WHOLE property and not have the unnecessary complication of having to coordinate with some bothersome city agency. think of all the jobs and development the bronx will get!'

    if you can't hear that coming, then you haven't opened up a newspaper or read blog or watched bronxtalk over the last 7 years.

    and it won't matter if the number of available seats don't compare to what might be at the armory. that's just an annoying detail. the party line is being set.

    thats my prediction. let's watch what happens.

  2. Gary, I don't think one even has to imagine a party line "being" set. It was set months ago. The DOE said they don't need schools in that area. Period. Regardless of whether the Guard was in there or not.
    The ULURP that will get under way before too long will not include the Guard annex buildings. That wasn't part of the RFP.
    So, there is time to get the city to change its mind about schools. But KARA hasn't said much about schools in recent months ... they've been more focused on securing a CBA, living wage jobs, etc. (You can only bang your head against the wall for so long re: schools.) We'll see if this new wrinkle changes things.

  3. on bronxtalk this past monday night, the chairman and district manager of community board 7 made it clear that they believe that schools are still a real possibility at the armory.

    (you can watch it here: http://www.bronxnet.fliggo.com/category/bronxtalk)

    but if as you say, KARA is not pushing it, then who is?

    so the DOE says that area doesn't need schools? explain this to me: schools are needed on webster and 205th, but not at kingsbridge and jerome? really, they're that scientific when they plan things. i'm impressed.

    and one minor correction... the agenda was set "years" ago, not months. and i can verify that to be true because i made this point consistently on that much-beloved and long-lamented bronxtalk AM TV show that i hosted a number of years ago.

    when i said the agenda is set, i should have said, 'the agenda was set years ago, now they're putting the play it in motion."

  4. Way to kill some good news, Gary. Not everything has to be doom and gloom all the time!

  5. all the time? of course, no.

    but in this case and in many cases when delaing with the city, things are not what they appear and if we're not diligent, we relinquish the ability to have input.

    so the idea is not to be negative for the sake of being negative, but to advocate for what is important.

  6. that's a great idea, but I feel that;s there is too many schools around the area.The congestion of the traffic in 195th is bad enough.


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