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Petition Seeks Support for Controversial Red Hook Private School

By Nikhita Venugopal | February 19, 2014 7:14pm
 Renderings for Basis Independent's new school at 556 Columbia St.
Basis Independent Brooklyn
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RED HOOK — Opponents who claim a pricey private school is wrong for Red Hook have one more chance to block the project next week — but a new group is chiming in with support for the school.

More than 60 people have signed a petition to back Basis Independent Brooklyn for the facilities and educational opportunities it plans to offer.

An overwhelming opposition to the school, including a red light from Community Board 6, drove Red Hook resident Fred Adler to start the petition of support.

“There was seemingly no community response that was positive,” said Adler, who is the father of two young children in the neighborhood. 

The petition argues that Basis's proposed merits — scholarships for local students, a building that could serve as a emergency relief center, construction and school jobs, and facilities for limited community use, such as an auditorium, theater and gym — shouldn't be forgotten.

School officials told DNAinfo New York last month that they would offer two full scholarships exclusively for incoming local kindergarteners after earlier announcing that there would be no scholarships in 2014.

The peace offering did not appease the school's opponents but the small group of supporters is more open to its overtures. 

“The school will serve families in Red Hook, the wider borough of Brooklyn, and lower Manhattan,” the petition reads.

“It will bring additional economic activity and needed regeneration to the Red Hook neighborhood and will become a fertile resource for the local area and New York City.”

As of Wednesday, 65 petition signers saw the new school as a boon for the former industrial Brooklyn neighborhood.

“As a potential investor of real estate in the area, nothing serves the community better than an outstanding school. It attracts young, involved people who will support all types of activities,” one commenter said.

The Board of Standards and Appeals will review an application from Basis Independent’s Brooklyn on Feb. 25 to build an almost 90,000 square-foot school building on a vacant Red Hook plot.

”To not see it happen would be a big loss,” said Adler.

The 1,000-seat private school, which will charge $23,500 in annual tuition, needs a special permit for construction since the 556 Columbia St. space is not zoned for school use.

But Red Hook’s Community Board 6 failed to back the application last December after residents lashed out against the school.

CB6 would not excuse the school’s failure to communicate with local residents and its “inappropriate” location in the neighborhood — just blocks from Brooklyn’s largest public housing complex where the median household income for the area is less than three-quarters of Basis’ annual tuition.

Basis spokesman Bob Liff said that “additional site preparation work” that was being permitted by the Department of Buildings had begun at the Columbia Street site.

"We look forward to the BSA hearing and hope for its approval of our permit so we can move towards full construction," said Mark Reford, CEO of Basis Independent Schools. 

"We are very excited to bring our proven educational program to Brooklyn and are committed to being good neighbors in the Red Hook community."

The Board of Standards and Appeals public hearing session starts at 10 a.m. on  Tuesday Feb. 25 at 22 Reade St., Spector Hall. For the session agenda, visit this website.