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East Village School Construction Project to Shut Down Half the Playground

By Serena Solomon | September 23, 2013 7:07am
 Modernizing construction will last for two years at the Neighborhood School and Star Academy/P.S. 63.
P.S. 63 and the Neighborhood School's Play Space
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EAST VILLAGE — Construction that's about to begin on a building that houses a pair of East Third Street schools could shut down half its playground and displace an after-school program through 2015, according to parents and officials who have been briefed on the plan.

Parents at the Neighborhood School and the Star Academy/P.S. 63 on East Third Street will lose up to half of their kids' outdoor space because Department of Education workers will use it as a staging ground for construction materials, parents and officials said. They were told the project is scheduled to start in the next few weeks and last until August 2015.

"It's a horrible thing," said Alysha Coleman, 45, who has a 7-year-old nephew at the Neighborhood School and heard about the project at a recent PTA meeting. "You want the children to have a place to play."

The DOE confirmed that it will use the play space, which is open to the public after school and on weekends, as a staging ground for the imminent $3.2 million project to modernize the school's exterior and remove asbestos-containing paint.

The work is scheduled to happen between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. so that it doesn't disrupt school hours, but it will mean that the University Settlement's after-school program will have to move out, said Lisa Donlan, president of the District 1 Community Education Council.

The after-school program will move to P.S. 19 at East 12th Street and First Avenue, said DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg.

University Settlement declined to comment.

Feinberg said the construction will include removing and replacing all the bricks from the building. Because the bricks are covered with asbestos-containing paint, workers will follow the city's regulations regarding asbestos removal, she said.

At a recent PTA meeting, parents were told that the air inside the school would be tested daily for asbestos, but Coleman said she was still concerned.

"What does that expose our kids to?" she said.

However, Carmen Garcia, 40, who has a child at the Neighborhood School, said the construction work and its inconveniences are just necessary evils. 

"It is work that needs to be done," she said.