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Residents Worry About a New Public School Coming To Union Square

By Amy Zimmer | June 23, 2011 8:54pm

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

UNION SQUARE — Just next to a glittering glass building where Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki reportedly bought two condos, a new public middle school and high school are slated to rise — and residents in the area have questions about how the influx of kids will impact the already crowded neighborhood.

Near the entrance of the former home of Tiffany & Co. at 15 Union Square West — where Wozniacki, the world's No. 1 ranked woman's player, apparently paid under $9 million for two apartments — the School Construction Authority is planning to open a school housing 850 seats by 2014.

Workers this week began demolishing the two-story structure at 10 East 15th St., to replace the Teamsters Local 810 union low-rise with a school expected to begin construction early next year. The city reportedly paid $39 million for the site.

"What would 850 students mean?" asked Ken Salzman, president of the board of directors at 7 East 14th St., a large co-op whose back windows face the construction site. "It's less about the impact on [property] values and more about the impact on quality of life."

The selective Clinton School for Writers and Artists, temporarily housed in former Catholic school on West 33rd Street, would relocate to the new building, which would also include a high school for 550 students, according to a resolution Community Board 5 passed in May 2010.

That resolution said the building would rise eight stories, but at a recent meeting with residents from 7 East 14th St., an official from the School Construction Authority declined to give specifics, causing residents to worry it might be taller, Salzman said.

The Department of Education has not yet filed plans for the new building. DOE officials did not immediately for comment.

"We understand the dire need for seats in District 2," Salzman said of the area that covers a big chunk of Manhattan from the Upper East Side down to Lower Manhattan. "I'm a young dad. I've got three children in public school in District 2. Who in their right mind would speak against schools in District 2?"

But, he said, locals fear the project is being "aggressively pushed quickly through."

They want to know how many stories will the building rise, will music rooms face apartments or could they be mitigated in some way with soundproof glass and whether the city would adhere to such construction rules as not starting work before 7 a.m.

Salzman wasn't pleased when workers started banging around this week at 6:28 a.m. The SCA told him it wasn't their fault, but the property owner's. The property owner blamed the SCA.

He wants the city to conduct a study on how the school will affect the neighborhood's sanitation, security and cleanliness, which are already strained in the busy area.

"It's about understanding the project and making sure what is supposed to be done is done and corners aren't cut and there's mitigation for residents' quality of life for the next several years," Salzman said. "We're looking to form a strong bond with our neighbor."

The co-op's relationship with the New School — whose 16-story university center across it on 14th Street and Fifth Avenue initially sparked outrage — has improved, Salzman said, explaining that school has been open with its construction schedule.

"We have a way of communicating with them that is not haphazard and confusing," Salzman said. "We hope that [the city schools] prove themselves to be a courteous neighbor."

Masato Shimizu, a chef at the Japanese restaurant 15 East, across from the planned school, looked forward to the new neighbor.

"Kids are nice," he said. "It's not like a disco or a club or something that would bring junkies. With a school, at 6 o'clock it's finished. Then it will be very quiet."