UPPER WEST SIDE — The Department of Education is still negotiating with the owner of a building housing a new public middle and high school that opened this September and only has four years left on its lease, further delaying the $40 to $50 million construction upgrade planned for the school.
Lease negotiations with the landlord Walter & Samuels, Inc. for the school building at 227 W. 61st St. have been under way for more than nine months now and are still ongoing, according to the School Construction Authority (SCA) and the DOE.
The city's Office of Management and Budget won't allow construction on a school building that has fewer than five years on its lease. Renovations to the new West End Secondary School, a 6-12 school that welcomed its first class of sixth-graders this September, can't proceed without a new lease, since the current one ends in 2020.
The planned work includes upgrades to the cafeteria, the gym, the black box theater, dance room, classrooms and creating ADA-accessible bathrooms.
The negotiations were described as "heated" by the SCA's Michael Mirasola in May.
"We hope and pray we can do this soon," he told parents at the time.
Currently, "the SCA is making another major push to get the owner to the table for another round of negotiations by the end of this year," Community Education Council 3 member Nan Mead told her colleagues at a meeting Wednesday.
Since the start of the school year, the WESS Parents Association has met with the SCA and elected officials regularly regarding the lease extension, said PA co-president Eric Shuffler.
"We as a PA are highly focused on this issue and confident that we’ll get it resolved," he said, noting that construction can occur over the summer.
"We hope the developer is reasonable in his demands and understanding [of] the long-term benefits of resolving the lease sooner rather than later," Shuffler noted.
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who has been part of the discussions with parents and the SCA, acknowledged that the school is in a "hot area."
But, she said, "I don’t have any reason to believe it won’t be resolved favorably and soon."
"People are frustrated with the slow progress, but that’s often how these things go."
The landlord, Walter & Samuels, Inc., did not immediately return multiple requests for comment.