Bronx students who say their schools are too crowded fight for space in the Kingsbridge Armory.
Community groups and elected officials rallied on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse yesterday to draw attention to the issue of overcrowding in Bronx schools.
Students from Sistahs and Brothas United, a youth group associated with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, held up Easter-themed signs, saying this spring could be a “rebirth” for education in the Bronx.
For years, community organizations have been fighting to secure space for new schools on West 195th street, near the sprawling, long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory. The neighborhood is part of school district 10, which comprises most of the Northwest Bronx and is one of the most crowded districts in the city.
Fatima Daffen, a senior at DeWitt Clinton High School who attended the rally, said it isn’t unusual for students to fight over seats in a classroom or for teachers to run out of books.
“Just getting inside the building is a hassle, there’s so many people,” said Daffen.
Others complained of schools that lack gyms or auditoriums, and classes being held in storage closets. Flor Cabrera, whose 11-year-old attends PS 79, said her daughter’s class of 32 students is too big for anyone to get individual attention.
“It’s just way too many fifth-graders for one teacher to handle,” she said. “Even the best teacher.”
Advocates say the site near the Armory on West 195th Street could accommodate up to 2,000 students and would alleviate some of these space problems. The building is currently home to the New York Army National Guard, which organizers say should relocate to the Muller Army Reserve Center, on Nereid Avenue in Wakefield. But some homeless service providers have been eyeing that space to use as a shelter, something community leaders have adamantly opposed.
“The Muller Center should be used by the Army Reserve, it should not be used to warehouse the homeless,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who attended the event. “There are many places that the city can house the homeless, if they do it in a smart way. In fact, I hear that Gracie Mansion—no one’s living there right now,” he joked.
Other officials, like Council Member Fernando Cabrera, Assemblyman Jose Rivera and possible State Senate contender Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter were also in attendance and lent their support to the cause.
Original development proposals for the Kingsbridge Armory included plans for schools. But advocates worry Mayor Bloomberg’s administration might lose interest in rebuilding the space since the City’s proposal to build a shopping mall there was shot down in December due to community opposition.
“Let him have his grudge,” resident John Rozankowski, who attended the rally, said of the mayor. “But he cannot ignore the young people.”