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Residents Rally to Save Century-Old St. George Wall

By Nicholas Rizzi | May 7, 2015 8:49am
 St. George residents have started a push to save a more than 100 year old stone wall the city plans to tear down as part of the Curtis High School construction project.
Curtis High School Stone Wall
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ST. GEORGE — The city plans to tear down sections of a century-old stone wall that surrounds a St. George high school, and residents have started a campaign to save it.

The city's Department of Education plans to remove sections of the retaining wall outside of Curtis High School as part of a construction project to ease overcrowding at the school.

Last week, the St. George Civic Association and Community Board 1 started an online petition and posted signs around the neighborhood to save the stone wall and trees.

"It's the signature and pride of the neighborhood," said Theo Dorian, president of the St. George Civic Association. "In this neighborhood, it's a constant battle to protect every historic piece that seems to be in jeopardy."

The DOE plans to build a new 12,000-square-foot annex to Curtis High School that will create 345 seats and move classrooms out of two trailers in the school, a spokesman for the agency said. The school is currently at 143-percent capacity, the spokesman said.

Construction plans will tear down sections of the wall on St. Mark's Place and add a new entrance to the school in its place. The DOE did not say how much of the wall will be removed, but said they would partially rebuild it after construction.

Curtis — the borough's first high school — was landmarked in 1982 but the wall itself isn't, a spokeswoman for the Landmark Preservation Commission said. Most of the neighborhood around the school is also landmarked.

Community Board 1 — which only has an advisory role — approved the DOE's plan to build a new annex to the school at a meeting in February, with the resolution that the city keep the retaining wall.

Priscilla Marco, board chairwoman, said members wished the DOE gave them more notice about the plans to remove the wall and said the project still doesn't address the need to build another high school in the area.

"Curtis does need this expansion, and while it's only putting a Band-Aid on a real problem, something has to be done," Marco said. "Both of my kids went to Curtis High School and it was overcrowded, and it's still overcrowded today."

Many of the neighbors fighting to keep the wall sent their children to the school as well and Dorian said they know relief is needed, but hope the city can save most of the wall.

"Those who bought homes in this area and on this block assumed that the landmarking laws, under which they were expected to apply, also applied to the property across the street," said Dorian. 

"Why doesn't our government respect the signature characteristics of a neighborhood?"