De Blasio's 'Problem' With Moskowitz Sparked Charter Denial, Lawsuit Says

By Colby Hamilton on March 18, 2014 2:09pm 

 Parents of students at Success Academy in Harlem filed a federal civil rights suit on March 18, 2014 over the city's decision to deny their school co-location access.
Parents of students at Success Academy in Harlem filed a federal civil rights suit on March 18, 2014 over the city's decision to deny their school co-location access.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

HARLEM — Parents of students at charter school magnate Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy middle school filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday over the city’s decision to deny the school promised space inside M.S. 149.

The parents claim Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision was prompted by a longstanding personal issue with Moskowitz, rather than the merits of their application. And they added that the decision is depriving their kids of their right to an education.

“If the mayor’s got a problem with Ms. Moskowitz, OK, but don’t take it out on our kids,” Gwen Shannon, a plaintiff in the suit, said in a statement. “We’re being caught in the middle.”

According to Success Academy, the suit claims the city specifically targeted Moskowitz’s Success Academies for rejection, noting that all three of the co-locations that were recently denied were Success Academy schools.

The charter school chain was rejected in its attempts to move into space in Harlem's P.S. 149, the August Martin High School complex in Jamaica, Queens, and Murry Bergtraum High School in Lower Manhattan.

Success Academy was allowed to move ahead with five other planned co-locations, including at The Bronx's I.S. 131, I.S. 96 in Bensonhurst, P.S. 78 in Bergen Beach and I.S. 59 Springfield Gardens in Queens, according to officials. The charter chain was also cleared to relocate the Success Academy location currently housed inside P.S. 167 in Brooklyn to P.S. 161 instead.

The parents pointed to a series of comments that de Blasio made in the past about Moskowitz, including during a UFT event during the mayoral campaign last year when de Blasio told those present, "She has to stop being tolerated, enabled, supported," according to a YouTube video of the rally.

Additionally, the lawsuit also claims the DOE applied their co-location criteria inconsistently. While the DOE said the reason the Success Academy sites were rejected was because they placed an elementary school inside a high school, the city allowed a different charter elementary school to go forward with its co-location in a high school, according to the lawsuit.

In a statement on behalf of the mayor, a DOE spokesman said the co-location decisions were made using “consistent, objective, commonsense standards” and that the city was already “taking steps to resolve concerns we have received by some parents.”

Success Academy is also challenging the city’s decisions at the state level, asking the Commissioner of Education’s office to overrule the decision.

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