Construction of Controversial Private School Approved for Red Hook

By Nikhita Venugopal on March 25, 2014 3:03pm 

Slideshow
 Renderings for Basis Independent's new school at 556 Columbia St.
Basis Independent Brooklyn
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RED HOOK — The construction of a 1,000-seat private school that will charge $23,500 in annual tuition was approved for Red Hook, a city panel ruled Tuesday.

The Board of Standards and Appeals granted a special permit to Basis Independent Brooklyn, which plans to open an 89,556-square-foot school at 556 Columbia St. in September, school officials said.

The school’s developer, HighMark, had applied for the special permit that would allow Basis to operate the school at a vacant Red Hook lot zoned for industrial use. The school will feature 43 classrooms, laboratories, a black box theater and a gymnasium, according to officials. 

Basis is now enrolling grades K-10 for 2014.

"We are grateful for the BSA decision and excited to have all the regulatory hurdles behind us," Dr. Q. Mark Reford, CEO of Basis, said in a statement.

"Now it is full-steam ahead to get ready to welcome families to BASIS Independent Brooklyn this September.”

Residents and community members were split on their opinion of the school at the BSA’s first public hearing on Feb. 25.

Critics of the school — including Community Board 6 who refused to support the project in December — argued that the city’s approval of the special permit would take away potential industrial jobs and set a precedent that could lead to similar zoning decisions throughout the neighborhood. Basis would also cause traffic congestion around its proposed building, they said.

While school officials had initially said that there would be no scholarships in 2014 for incoming students, two full scholarships were later offered for incoming local kindergarten students after backlash from the community.

“The fact is that the vast majority of people have no chance to attend the school,” Corbin Laedlein, who started a petition against the school, previously told DNAinfo New York.

At the February meeting, the BSA asked the Basis team to submit information regarding pedestrian and traffic safety, said Flora Edwards, the school’s attorney.

David Gerouac, the project's contractor, said Basis must now obtain permits from the Department of Buildings.

Construction of the school building on the site will start in about three weeks, pending permits, he said.

Supporters of the school have praised the educational opportunities and facilities that Basis would bring to Red Hook. More than 250 people had signed a petition in favor of the school as of Tuesday.

“The school will serve families in Red Hook, the wider borough of Brooklyn, and lower Manhattan,” the petition reads.

“It will bring additional economic activity and needed regeneration to the Red Hook neighborhood and will become a fertile resource for the local area and New York City.”

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