P.S. 199 Parents Break From PTA to Fight Redevelopment at UWS School

By Emily Frost on June 10, 2013 8:09am 

Slideshow
 A new group of parents is the latest to join the opposition to the DOE's redevelopment plans. 
P.S. 199 Parent Group Takes Stand Against School Demolition
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A group of parents at P.S. 199 is breaking from their PTA to fight against the Department of Education's proposed demolition of their school. 

More than 200 supporters have signed a petition against the DOE's plan, which would give a developer the right to knock down and rebuild the school and develop a high rise 
on top of it.

P.S. 191 has also been targeted by the department as a potential site for redevelopment.

It's unclear how many of the signers of the petition, started by P.S. 199 parent Melanie Brazil, have children at either of the schools. But several who left comments on the petition identify themselves as parents.

"We just feel like we can’t stand by and be silent," said Brazil of the group's decision.

The PTA's approach has been "wait-and-see," Brazil said, but many of the parents she's spoken with aren't satisfied with that approach.

"I just don't feel reassured by waiting for [the DOE]," she said. "It could very well be that they just announce that [the redevelopment is] happening."

Eve Fogel and Eric Shuffler, co-presidents of the P.S. 199 PTA, said in a statement: "We are focused on leading our parents through a complex issue by trying to fill the information gap as best we can while being sensitive to the range of parent opinions and issues that are unique to P.S. 199."

The statement went on to read that the PTA is in constant communication with parents, who have expressed concerns.

"We are all frustrated by the lack of details and the process," Fogel and Shuffler said in the statement. 

Last November, the DOE, as part of a plan to increase revenue, solicited interest from developers in a small ad in Crain's. A parent noticed the addresses listed as development sites were those of P.S. 199 and P.S. 191.

The move angered parents immediately. The P.S. 191 community, lead by its PTA, took an early stance against the plans — and the difference between the two schools led to some tense moments at a CEC forum in May.

Many have grumbled that it's unfair that the DOE has not said whether it will go forward with redeveloping either one or both of the schools, potentially pitting them against each other. 

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said it makes sense that parents from P.S. 199 are now joining the organized opposition to the plans. 

"As word spreads about this potential development, people are getting angry and want to take action," Rosenthal said. "People are organizing."

On June 13, a group called The Coalition to Save our Schools, formed in response to the DOE's plans, is hosting a forum to speak out against the plans, Brazil said.

The DOE has been invited to attend, she added.

A spokeswoman for the DOE said, however, "we will be announcing next steps later this month and will be happy to meet with them about plans at that time."

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