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Convert Tweed Courthouse to a School, Downtown Pol Says

By Julie Shapiro on November 21, 2011 5:13pm 

In addition to housing the Department of Education's headquarters, Tweed Courthouse also has six classrooms on its ground floor.
In addition to housing the Department of Education's headquarters, Tweed Courthouse also has six classrooms on its ground floor.
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Flickr/joseph a

LOWER MANHATTAN — Downtown is so desperate for school seats that the Department of Education should give up its Tweed Courthouse headquarters and build a new school there instead, State Sen. Daniel Squadron said Monday.

Squadron made the suggestion in a letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, in which Squadron slammed the DOE for not planning enough new schools to serve Downtown's rapidly rising population. This year, TriBeCa's popular P.S. 234 had a waitlist of 38 students and other local schools took in more kindergarten sections than they could comfortably hold.

"DOE must take dramatic steps to meet the growing demand for school seats in Lower Manhattan," he wrote in the letter.

"In fact, if no other buildings become available, perhaps DOE should look to a building in Lower Manhattan that already has classroom space…. Since the Tweed Courthouse already meets the complex criteria for siting a public school, DOE could consider increasing the number of classrooms in the Tweed Courthouse building and relocating offices to another office facility."

One option is for the DOE to move its offices to 4 World Trade Center, where the city has already agreed to lease more than half a million square feet when the tower opens in 2013, Squadron said.

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Squadron made his suggestion about Tweed Courthouse in response to the DOE's most recent rezoning plan for Lower Manhattan's schools, which would send TriBeCa children to P.S. 1 in Chinatown.

Squadron said he was concerned about the negative impact the proposal could have on both TriBeCa and Chinatown, and he told Walcott that the city ought to focus on building more school seats, rather than shuffling children among existing seats.

The idea of a school in Tweed Courthouse is not new — the building's ground floor has hosted classrooms for years, currently for the Innovate Manhattan Charter School and next fall as an incubator for the new Peck Slip School.

But Squadron is suggesting that the DOE also make the building's upper floors, currently used as offices for the chancellor and his staff, into a school as well.

Because Tweed was not designed as a school, it has no gym or auditorium and only a small cafeteria, but students do have a private play yard in City Hall Park.

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