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Riverside Center School to Open in 2018 as Beacon Construction Delayed

By Emily Frost | May 1, 2015 5:25pm | Updated on May 4, 2015 8:50am
 The Riverside Center School opening has been delayed and is now expected to open in 2018.
Riverside Center School to Serve K-8 Students
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The long-awaited public school being built at the Riverside Center development will open in 2018 and serve roughly 500 students, Department of Education officials said. 

However, the plans for the conversion of the Beacon High School space into a new 6-12 school have been delayed by lease negotiations, DOE officials said.

The DOE has not reached an agreement for the lease at the West 61st Street space with its landlord, Walter and Samuels, Inc., which delayed the construction timetable by at least six months.

The lease currently expires in 2020 and the city's Office of Management and Budget won't allow the DOE to put a project out to bid until a school has a lease longer than five years, said Michael Mirasola, School Construction Authority.

"We can’t spend any money because we don’t have a sufficiently long lease to make it eligible," Mirasola said.

Construction was expected to start this fall. On April 1, SCA President Lorraine Grillo told parents that the landlord had been "non-responsive" for more than a month despite daily pressure from her office.

The DOE then sent a letter threatening eminent domain, which prompted a response, but still no agreement from the landlord, she said. An agreement still hasn't been reached. 

"Every day it’s held up is a day [construction is] further pushed. We hope and pray we can do this soon," said Mirasola of the lease negotiation, which he described as "heated."

The delay means there will be more than one class of students in the building while construction on the $40 to $50 million renovations is underway.

West End Secondary School, the new school using the Beacon space, is opening this fall with only a sixth grade class and then will add a new grade each year. Beacon will move to a spot in Hell's Kitchen.

No construction will happen during school hours, only after school and on weekends during the school year, and an air monitoring system will be used to make sure the school is safe to inhabit after work occurs, Mirasola said. 

He conceded that the delay will mean the SCA and WESS Principal Jessica Jenkins have to do some heavy logistical maneuvering to work out which spaces students can occupy and which spaces become construction sites and the timing of the work. 

Walter and Samuels did not respond to request for comment.

Further west of WESS, construction is underway on the shell of the Riverside Center School and the residential tower that will rise above it.

Riverside Center School was originally set to open in September 2015, but is now planned to open in September 2018, he said. Work on the interior of the school will begin in about a year, said Mirasola. 

The site was bought from the original developer, Extell Corporation, by the Dermot Company. The new public school is part of the deal worked out with the developer by the city.

It will serve 500 students, grades pre-K-8, with two classes in each grade and three smaller classrooms set aside for special education, he said. 

According to the SCA, features at the new school will include:

► a "full-size art room"

► a music classroom and practice spaces

► a science lab and a middle school level science room

► a 5,400-square-foot gym that has a stage and can be used as an auditorium

► a 2,500-square-foot library

► a 2,500-square-foot cafeteria 

► two rooftop playgrounds on different levels, one for pre-K and younger students and the other appropriate for older students

► an elevator that provides access to all four floors and the playground spaces

► guidance and administration rooms 

► Four 1,000-square-foot classrooms for the pre-K students and 16 700-square-foot classrooms for the upper level students

To see renderings of the school click on the slideshow above. 

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