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DOE to Use More Public-Private Partnerships to Build Schools, Walcott Says

By Mary Johnson | October 15, 2012 9:47am

MIDTOWN EAST — Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that the city intends to use more public-private partnerships to contruct schools in the future, after the successful launch of one such institution this year.

The new school building in Midtown East that houses both P.S. 59 and the High School of Art and Design hosted a grand opening celebration on Friday, commemorating a successful collaboration between the city’s Department of Education and private developer World-Wide Group that allowed a brand new facility to be built at no cost to taxpayers.

Walcott said that the department’s Educational Construction Fund, along with real estate partner CB Richard Ellis, will release a new RFP for additional school construction projects in another week or so.  

“We’ll be taking a look at other projects around the city to replicate the beauty of what we have here to make sure that our communities benefit,” Walcott said at the event.

“We’re here to work together on behalf of our students,” he added. “We are pledging our support to accomplish that task.”

Walcott did not elaborate on the details of any new projects or potential locations.

The new school building for P.S. 59 and the High School of Art and Design, located on East 56th Street between Second and Third avenues, was built through a partnership between the DOE and the developer World-Wide Group and has been some seven years in the making.

But both Walcott and David Lowenfeld, executive vice president of the World-Wide Group, noted that the school was completed early and under budget, with a final construction cost of $147.5 million.

As part of the deal, the World-Wide Group built the school facility, which houses more than 2,000 students, with room for commercial space on the ground floor of the building’s entrance on East 57th Street, now occupied by Whole Foods.

In exchange for constructing the new school, the World-Wide Group is able to use the rest of the site, which it has leased from the DOE, to build a residential tower.

“That’s the part that pays the bills,” Lowenfeld explained. “That’s the part that makes sure that these schools were built without one penny of taxpayer expense.”

Lowenfeld said demolition has already begun, and his company expects to hold a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the future high-rise in the next few months.

City Councilman Daniel Garodnick, who attended the ceremony on Friday, said he was excited to hear that the Educational Construction Fund will be looking into more public-private partnerships in the future.

“We need to be creative,” Garodnick said. “We need to find ways to work together and to harness private sector support for our public institutions.

“This is a great project. This is a great collaboration. The building gets rave reviews.”