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'Tidal Wave' of West Side Development Demands More School Seats, Locals Say

By Maya Rajamani | February 15, 2017 1:28pm
 A rendering of Hudson Yards from the Hudson River.
A rendering of Hudson Yards from the Hudson River.
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HELL’S KITCHEN — A plan to add new school seats across the city doesn’t account for the “tidal wave” of development heading to the West Side, local officials said.

The Department of Education’s 2015-2019 capital plan provides funding for 3,150 new seats in Community Education Council District 2, which stretches from the Battery to about 58th Street on the West Side and about 96th Street on the East Side, excluding the Lower East Side and part of Chinatown.

A total of 1,222 of those seats are expected to go to Community Board 4 which covers Chelsea and Hells Kitchen, director of external affairs at the School Construction Authority Michael Mirisola told the board’s Arts, Culture, Education and Street Life Committee this week.

Several board members, however, said they felt the neighborhood needs more seats than it’s been allocated.

“How does that not take into account all the construction in West Chelsea, and what’s going to go up in Hudson Yards?” board member Lowell Kern asked Mirisola.

“It would seem to me we need at least double the number of seats you’ve got allocated.”

“That’s what every district says,” Mirisola responded.

“But we’ve got the buildings to prove it,” Kern maintained.

Of the 1,222 seats slated for CB4, 766 will be created at a new elementary and middle school expected to open in the Hudson Yards in September 2022, Mirisola told the committee.

The plan also allocates funding for an additional 456 seats in either Chelsea or Midtown West, though the city hasn’t yet identified a site to accommodate them, he said.

Kern and board member Ambur Nicosia questioned the methods the city used to to project the number of seats a neighborhood would need.

The District 2 Community Education Council has expressed the same concern, arguing the city doesn’t take into account the size of planned new apartment buildings, among other factors.

The development happening at Hudson Yards is “the largest in the United States,” Nicosia pointed out.

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“If we disagree with the numbers, how do we get that changed?” Kern asked.

Mirisola acknowledged that there would be “no direct way now to get that changed."

“We anticipate need too. We don’t miss those buildings that are going up on the West Side — we see them,” he explained.

“So we can disagree, but at this point, you’re not showing need. And we don’t think in the next five years you’re going to show more than that."

The committee discussed working with CEC2 to address its issues with the city’s projections.

Following the meeting, several board members reiterated their concerns about Mirisola’s presentation.

In addition to the constant construction at Hudson Yards, the blocks along the High Line have been rapidly developing, Kern pointed out.

“We have a real need,” Nicosia said. “We have a tidal wave that’s coming right at us.”