Petition Asks Red Hook's CB6 to Delay Decision on Pricey Private School

By Nikhita Venugopal on December 11, 2013 10:25am 

 Basis Schools runs charter schools across the country and plans to open a 1,000-seat private school in Red Hook next year.
Basis Schools runs charter schools across the country and plans to open a 1,000-seat private school in Red Hook next year.
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Facebook/Basis Independent Brooklyn

RED HOOK — Residents upset over a plan to bring an expensive private school to Red Hook have started a petition to delay the school's construction.

Basis Independent Brooklyn a 1,000-seat school that plans to open next fall and will charge $23,500 in tuition with no scholarships for local kids in its first year — is seeking a special zoning permit to build the school at 556 Columbia St., a site that is not currently zoned for school use.

While Community Board 6's landmarks and land use committee approved the school’s application from the Board of Standards and Appeals on Nov. 14, dozens of residents are asking CB6’s full board to table their decision at the Dec. 11 general meeting so locals can learn more about the proposed school that would have a “profound impact” on their neighborhood.

“[W]e believe that more time is needed for community members to be made aware of the issues surround the potential establishment of BASIS Independent Brooklyn in Red Hook so that we can make an informed decision,” the petition, addressed the CB6 District Manager Craig Hammerman, read.

An Arizona-based charter school operator will run the school, their first private one, with an annual tuition of $23,500 for kindergarten through 12th grade, school officials told board members last month.

But CB6 only has a 60-day window to review an application from the Board of Standards and Appeals and cannot hold it for longer, Hammerman told DNAinfo New York in an email.

Although additional time has been needed to review some applications, it was not recommended by the landmarks and land use committee in this case, he said.

“It sounds like the petition may be misleading signers into thinking we have the authority and luxury of setting the review schedule, which we do not,” he said.

Basis CEO Mark Reford promised the board that scholarships would eventually be set aside for Red Hook students, and that the school would not turn into a charter.

 A 1,000-seat private school for kindergarten through 12th grade was approved for 556 Columbia St. in Red Hook.
A 1,000-seat private school for kindergarten through 12th grade was approved for 556 Columbia St. in Red Hook.
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Facebook/Basis Independent Brooklyn

CB6 will not hold another public hearing, but the BSA would schedule one before making its final decision.

But locals are still irked by the lack of communication between the school and residents within the neighborhood, which includes the city's largest NYCHA housing development, just a few blocks from the 89,556-square-foot proposed school site.

The petition, which had received more than 75 signatures as of Wednesday morning, is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the school and the growing concern surrounding its new Red Hook home.

“It seemed to us like there were so many people in the community that were upset that this was happening,” said Corbin Laedlein, a program director at Added Value, who started the petition.

Basis schools rely heavily on advanced placement and college-level courses and have been ranked among the best schools in the country and the world.

The school is committed to sharing its facility, which includes a gymnasium and black box theater, establishing a scholarship program for Red Hook students and creating a community advisory board, Reford said in a statement.

“In every community where BASIS Schools have been established, we have fostered ongoing positive relationships with local community groups and residents, civic organizations, and elected officials,” he said.

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