By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The city has made a final decision not to expand Millennium High School into nearby space at 26 Broadway, Department of Education officials said last week.
Downtown community leaders have been pushing the city to grow Millennium, a popular Financial District school that now accepts only 3 percent of its applicants.
The city agreed that Millennium ought to be given the chance to expand, but instead of putting the second location in 26 Broadway, the city plans to put it in Brooklyn, said Lenny Speiller, executive director of public affairs for the DOE.
Speiller said Manhattan already has plenty of selective high schools, and the real need for the 26 Broadway space is for an unscreened school that is open to everyone.
That school will likely be Richard R. Green High School, which is now located on the Upper East Side and selects its freshman class by lottery. Last year, the school had a 68 percent graduation rate, Speiller said, while Millennium's always tops 90 percent.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the city’s decision on 26 Broadway would be "harmful" for lower Manhattan.
"It’s important for school buildings in lower Manhattan to serve our students and our population," Silver said at a meeting of his school overcrowding task force last week. "Expanding Millennium is one of the better ways to do that."
Speiller replied that Richard Green could serve just as many local students as the more selective Millennium. Downtown children attend 240 different high schools all over the city, and nearly half pick unscreened schools like Richard Green, Speiller said.
"While we recognize this proposal may come as a disappointment to some members of the community, we are compelled to take into consideration the needs of all students and families of Lower Manhattan," Speiller wrote in a Nov. 19 letter to Silver.
"Millennium is not the right option for every student and family, while Richard R. Green will serve a more diverse mix of Lower Manhattan students — and Manhattan needs open seats."
Manhattan has lost more than 1,000 unscreened high school seats since 2009 because of expiring leases, and the 26 Broadway space will replace several hundred of them, Speiller said.
Millennium gives preference to students from below Houston Street, and so far all those who meet the admissions criteria — an A average, good attendance and strong test scores — have always been offered a seat.
Speiller said he expects the second Millennium in Brooklyn to open up even more seats for downtown students at the original Millennium, as 35 percent of the school’s population now comes from Brooklyn.
The city will release more detailed plans for 26 Broadway at the beginning of December, Speiller said, and then the proposal will undergo public review.