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Construction at School Playground Stalled by Winter, Principals Say

By Serena Solomon | March 19, 2014 9:13am
 The construction project has taken three quaters of the schools' playground for two years.
East Village School Construction Project
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EAST VILLAGE — A major renovation project to remove asbestos and update an East Village school's facade — taking over the school's playground in the meantime — ground to a halt this winter because of the cold weather, officials from the School Construction Authority said.

At Tuesday's meeting at Star Academy/P.S. 63 and the Neighborhood School, officials from the SCA admitted that Kafka Construction, which is the contractor in charge of the project, had to slow their work this winter.

But until the company misses its deadline for the facade renovation project in September 2015, the city cannot enforce any penalties, officials told parents and principals for the schools.

“Once the weather starts improving, they will have to bring in more [work] men,” said Constantin Dumitrescu, a project officer at the SCA, adding that if work does not speed up in the next six weeks “then definitely we have a problem.”

Officials blamed snow and cold temperatures for the slow start to construction, saying the weather made it impossible to complete asbestos removal — or even to start some portions of the work on occasional warmer days.

"You can't stop and start. You are wasting your time," said Richard Mazur, a senior project officer with the authority. "We can only start when we know we can keep going."

The city began work last fall to repair the facade of the East Third Street building that houses the Star Academy/P.S. 63 and the Neighborhood School, shutting down three-quarters of the playground and forcing the after-school program to relocate.

The project was supposed to last for two years, but parents and administrators who have been watching the work closely worry that it has fallen behind schedule. SCA officials said they were pressuring contactor Kafka Construction to get cracking.

Kafka Construction referred all calls to the SCA.

Parents and principals said they were frustrated that after making sacrifices — including giving up most of the 18,000-square-foot outdoor play space and moving the after-school program to nearby P.S. 19 so that construction can start at 4 p.m. each day — the work is still moving so slowly.

Darlene Cameron, principal of the Star Academy and Dyanthe Spielberg, the principal of the Neighborhood School, said the construction site has sat idle about three-quarters of the time since scaffolding went up and equipment arrived last fall.

"If they just had a glimpse of our students not being able to play outside, sitting in an auditorium on a bright sunny day, they would want to get this project done as soon as possible," Cameron said. "They wouldn't want their children to have the same situation or circumstance."