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City to Cram 3 Schools Into East 96th St. Block-Wide Redevelopment

By Shaye Weaver | May 11, 2016 11:59am
 Coop Tech will be rebuilt under the new plan.
Coop Tech will be rebuilt under the new plan.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

EAST HARLEM — Developers are reconfiguring a block on East 96th Street to accommodate three overcrowded schools with two new state-of-the-art buildings.

The $500 million redevelopment project will build two school buildings at 321 E. 96th St., in addition to 1,200 apartments — 30 percent of which will be affordable — and 25,000 square feet of retail, according to to the developer, AvalonBay, which is partnering with the city to bring the plan to life.

The building currently there is home to School of Cooperative Technical Education, serving 2,000 students ages 17 to 21. It will be demolished at some point, but the school will be allowed to stay there until they can move into one of the new buildings, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Education.

Once they move in, they will be co-located with two other schools that need to be moved due to overcrowding, officials said. Harlem's Park East High School, currently serving 413 students, and Heritage School, with about 322 students, will both be moved in to share the new spaces, officials say.

The Heritage School currently occupies the third and fourth floors of the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in East Harlem and does not have a cafeteria or gym. Students are now using the cultural center's gym as a cafeteria, according to online school guide InsideSchools

Park East High School, which has been lauded for its high graduation rate for students with disabilities, can only accommodate smaller classes in its East 105th Street building, according to officials.

The redevelopment was first pitched by the city in 2013, and was vehemently opposed by students and staff at Coop Tech, who feared the school would have to close during construction.

Scott Stringer, who was the Manhattan borough president at the time, and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito criticized the proposal for not incorporating enough input from the community.

This time around, the DOE says Coop Tech will be allowed to remain open, but is now adding the co-location of two other schools, which was not a part of the original plan.

The city had wanted to redevelop the school along with P.S. 199 and P.S. 191 on the Upper West Side. The idea was to tear down the two Upper West Side schools and build high-rise residential developments with new schools to bring in revenue.

After protests, the DOE scrapped the Upper West Side plans and decided to focus on Coop Tech.

“The speaker looks forward to fully reviewing the proposal and working with community stakeholders, developers and the Administration to make sure the needs of East Harlem residents are fully prioritized and incorporated into any possible future development plans,” a spokeswoman for Mark-Viverito told DNAinfo on May 3.

AvalonBay also promises to work with the city’s HireNYC program and other workforce programs to hire local residents for construction jobs, said Martin Piazzola, senior vice president of AvalonBay.

The redevelopment plan was first reported by The Real Deal 

The new schools will not cost the city’s education department any capital money, according to the mayor’s office. Revenue generated from the ground lease agreement with the developer will go directly to the schools, according to a spokeswoman for the education department.

If all goes according to plan, the project will also include rehabilitation of The Marx Brothers playground, Piazzola said. Specifics of the renovation were not immediately available.

Part of the playground is currently blocked off to use as a staging area for the Second Avenue subway construction.

Plans for the project have not been filed yet with the city, but the approval process will begin immediately after and construction will start once the developer completes a Uniform Land Use Review Process.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Park East High School would only partially move into one of the new buildings. Park East High School will completely relocate to the new building.