By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has joined the push to expand Millennium High School into vacant space nearby.
Silver wrote a letter to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein last week, urging Klein to allow the popular lower Manhattan school to expand to 26 Broadway so it can serve more downtown children. Millennium is overcrowded and last year accepted just 3 percent of the 4,500 students who applied.
"It is my firm belief that allowing [Millennium] to expand into 26 Broadway would best serve our community," Silver wrote in the Sept. 22 letter.
The city has already leased 100,000 square feet of space at 26 Broadway — former home of the Sports Museum of America — for up to 660 high school seats. But the city has not announced which school will fill those seats, and a DOE official called Millennium’s proposal "tricky" in an e-mail last week.
In his letter, Silver said it is important for a lower Manhattan school to get the seats. He criticized the Department of Education for previously moving schools from elsewhere in the city to 26 Broadway.
"Over the past two years, I, and members of my School Overcrowding Task Force, have made it clear to DOE staff that much of the 26 Broadway space should be used to address the need for additional school seats for this fast-growing community," Silver wrote to Klein.
"To date, the DOE has instead relocated middle and high school students from other areas. The time has come for the DOE to use this last space to fulfill our local Lower Manhattan needs for high school seats, which our community can and will use."
Silver was referring to the Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women, which moved from the East Village to 26 Broadway last year, and the former Greenwich Village Middle School, which moved in this year and became the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School.
Unlike those schools, Millennium offers admissions preference to students who live below Houston Street, because downtown residents raised money to build the school after 9/11.
Millennium Principal Robert Rhodes is spearheading the effort to expand his school, and Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee voted unanimously in support of the expansion last week.
The Department of Education did not respond to requests for comment. Silver’s office has not yet received a response from Klein, a spokesman said.