Parents, Students and Teachers Fight for Right to Protest Outside Mayor's Upper East Side Mansion
By Nicole Bode
DNAinfo Associate Editor
MANHATTAN — Parents, students and teachers outraged by the mayor’s decision to close schools around the city are demanding the right to voice their concerns on the steps of his Upper East Side home.
The Emergency Coalition to Stop School Closings filed a lawsuit after the NYPD rejected their application to hold a Jan. 21 protest on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s East 79th Street block, they said. Lawyers for both sides are set to appear in federal court Wednesday morning.
"We want (the judge) to allow the protesters on the north side of 79th street. The NYPD has historically denied protests on that block," said Julie Cavanagh, a Brooklyn teacher who’s part of the coalition.
"There’s already negotiations with the NYPD and they offered us the south side of the street. We think it’s our constitutional right to hold a protest on any side of the street, the north side of 79th street included."
Cavanagh said the group will hold the protest in the area with or without the permit — and are calling for protesters to meet at 4 p.m. next Thursday at Fifth Avenue and 79th Street.
The city's law department defended the decision to reject the permit on Bloomberg's side of the street.
"The Police Department's refusal to agree to a demonstration procession on the sidewalk in front of the Mayor's residence and its proposal that the event take place on the street and sidewalk across from the Mayor's residence was a lawful and appropriate accommodation to the protestors' desire to exercise their First Amendment rights while at the same time assuring that safety and necessary access can be maintained at the Mayor's residence," the city's chief lawyer, Gabriel Taussig, said in a statement.
Right now there are dozens of schools around the city slated to be closed, relocated or reorganized, according to the Education Department’s Web site.
At least twelve Manhattan schools appear on the list so far, including P.S. 138 for special-needs students in Chelsea, where K-5 students could be sent out to other locations, the DOE’s site says.
"The schools we are closing have not met the academic requirements, including graduation rates, and we propose to phase them out and replace them with successful schools," the Education Department said in a statement.
"While closing a school is a difficult decision, we cannot ask students to attend a school where they have so small a chance of success."