All in All, Less Bricks in the Wall at School Building

IMG_0015Alexa Mae Asperin

Here’s your latest look at the east wall of the school building on East 12th Street that was evacuated last week due to structural damage.

Several rows of bricks have been dismantled, but a construction worker told The Local that it would be another two weeks until the wall, which had started separating from the building, is demolished. Construction of the new wall will begin immediately thereafter and is expected to be completed in a month. That’s a bit longer than the three-to-four-week estimate that the Department of Education gave The Local on Friday.

Today a Department of Education spokeswoman said the condition of the remaining walls is still being investigated.

After a brief stint at P.S. 19, students of East Side Community Middle School reported to 8 Henry Street today for their first day of being co-located with students of P.S. 1 Alfred E. Smith. According to a parent-run Website, they will have their own floor in the school building, and a separate entrance. Read more…

Grace Church School Will Take Over Village Voice Offices as $12 Million Buildout Continues

Photos: Melvin Felix

Across the street from where a dorm will rise at 35 Cooper Square, there’s more big news: Grace Church School will take over the Village Voice’s offices next year.

During a tour of the school’s new state-of-the-art high school building at 46 Cooper Square, headmaster George Davison revealed this morning that the school will also move into the third floor of the adjacent building at 36 Cooper Square once the Voice’s lease expires there next year.

Tony Ortega, the Voice’s editor-in-chief, confirmed the embattled weekly’s impending departure. “Thankfully we’ll be leaving this dump in the spring, and we’ll be taking the letters on the outside of the building with us,” he wrote in an e-mail.

When the Voice moved to 36 Cooper Square in 1991, the building’s owner, Leonard Stern, also owned the alternative paper. Mr. Ortega pointed out that things changed after Stern Publishing sold the Voice. “Since 2000 the Voice has just been a renter here, and if you’ve been in our offices you know they’ve seen better days,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to going to our new home.” Read more…

Harsh! No Skateboarding on Sundays at Open Road Park?

photo(249)Melvin FelixOutside of BRC Senior Services Center last night.

Skate or die! But only between the hours of noon and 8 p.m.

A Community Board 3 committee has recommended new hours of access that will limit the amount of time skateboarders can ride the ramps at Open Road Park. The public park, jointly operated by the neighboring East Side Community High School and the parks department, was closed last summer and then again over the winter due to concerns about drug use and noise.

At a meeting of the Parks, Recreation, Cultural Affairs, Landmarks, & Waterfront committee last night, those issues resurfaced. “Neighbors had concerns with people climbing the fence late at night and using it to skateboard and making a lot of noise,” said Susan Stetzer, district manager of Community Board 3.

Residents of the block on 12th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A said they didn’t mind skateboarding so long as it was regulated. Genevieve, a neighbor of the park who did not want to give her last name, complained that skaters show up as early as 7:30 a.m. and don’t leave until late at night. “The noise it creates rebounds like an echo chamber,” she said. “When you have 50 kids skateboarding back and forth, it’s just an incredible noise.”

Monique Flores, director of University Settlement’s Beacon program at East Side Community High, worried that the 250 children she regularly takes to the park were being exposed to foul language and drug use. “I’m responsible for anything that happens to those kids,” she said. “Scary things have happened there. There has to be a solution and there has to be someone who monitors.”

The schedule proposed last night would allow skateboarding on weekdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m., but not on Sundays. Read more…

LIVE: City Council Hearing On N.Y.U. 2031

photo(241)Sarah DarvilleProtesters on the steps of City Hall this morning.

The protesters have arrived in full force at City Hall, and so has Mayor Bloomberg and Matthew Broderick: it’s time to settle in for the City Council hearing on N.Y.U. 2031 – the final one before council members vote on the fate of the school’s expansion plan in Greenwich Village. Follow us on Twitter or stay parked right here as we update in real-time from what is sure to be a marathon meeting. If there’s a lull in the action and you want to brush up on what all this hoopla is about, you can review our Expansion Explainers. Otherwise, without further ado…

With Rooftop Garden Designed By ‘Starchitect,’ Earth School Branches Out

IMG_1187Courtesy 5th Street Farm Project The Earth School’s rooftop.
IMG_1196Courtesy 5th Street Farm Project Manure awaiting installation

Not only are middle-schoolers at P.S. 64 creating traffic signs, they may soon be growing ingredients for school lunches. This fall, the Earth School, which shares a building with P.S. 64, plans to unveil a $1.1 million rooftop garden designed by Michael Arad, the architect of the 9/11 Memorial.

Five years ago, Abbe Futterman, a science teacher at Earth School, had the idea of turning the 56-year-old building’s roof into an outdoor classroom. To get there, the school had to develop a cost-friendly design, procure over a million dollars in funding with the help of local politicians, and get necessary city approvals – complicated steps for building professionals, let alone schoolteachers and administrators focused on students.

IMG_1180Courtesy 5th Street Farm Project Stairs to the green roof.

The Earth School’s principal, Alison Hazut, said the project received a major push from one individual: “It really was a parent saying, ‘I can help to make this happen.’ And that parent was Michael Arad.” Read more…

P.S. 64 Kids Want You to Play ‘Safetyopoly’

safetyopoly 2Sarah Darville
safetyopolyMarlon Hosang with Janette Sadik-KhanSarah Darville

Students at P.S. 64 Robert Simon want people to slow down and pay attention on the streets near their Fifth Street school — and they aren’t playin’. Well, maybe a little bit. City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan was on hand this morning to unveil a “Safetyopoly” traffic sign, designed by the schoolkids, complete with Monopoly-like squares with messages like “no jaywalking” and “look both ways” and landmarks like Tompkins Square Park and Union Square. About 40 fifth graders watched as it was attached to a pole at the end of the cul-de-sac behind the school, between Avenues B and C.

The commissioner said the sign was her favorite of the city’s 1.3 million. “I don’t think it gets any better than this,” she told the crowd. The students worked with an artist from Groundswell, a nonprofit focused on public art, throughout the year and also had a chance to see the sign fabricated at the city’s sign shop in Long Island City.

Bomb Threat at Lower East Side High School

University Neighborhood High SchoolMelvin Felix The school today.

The University Neighborhood High School was briefly evacuated today due to a bomb threat, a tipster told The Local. A person who answered the phone at the school at 200 Monroe Street confirmed the story, saying students and administrators were led to an auditorium in the nearby University Neighborhood Middle School this morning. The high school’s principal referred inquiries to the Department of Education, which declined to comment.

Update | 3:22 p.m. The police said that at 8:47 a.m., someone phoned in a threat claiming there was a bomb inside of a soda machine. The building was evacuated, searched, and it was determined that there was no bomb. The students then returned to class.

Schoolkids Brighten Up Cafeteria Tables With a Little Help From Christo

Photos: Philip Ross

It’s not every day that students are encouraged to deface school property. But today in Union Square, schools chancellor Dennis M. Walcott helped a few hundred middle-schoolers unveil brightly colored cafeteria tables that will soon be displayed in city parks.

With the blessing of the parks department, the educational nonprofit Learning through an Expanded Arts Program (LeAP) encouraged 350 students across ten schools to brainstorm issues that affected them on a daily basis. After classroom visits from artists such as Christo and Mark di Suvero, whose iconic “Joie de Vivre” sculpture overlooks Zuccotti Park, the students painted cafeteria tables with imagery and quotes pertaining to bullying, gang violence, gay rights, environmental awareness, and drug use. Read more…

Kids Make Mugs for The Bean, and Money for Their School Library

The Neighborhood School libraryThe Neighborhood School The library in the Neighborhood School.

A local school’s library narrowly avoided the chopping block this year, and now The Bean is hosting a fundraiser to help get a head start on the next inevitable fight to keep it open.

On May 23 students from the Neighborhood School will sell raffle tickets, art and lemonade at the coffee shop on Second Avenue to benefit the library and its librarian. Cafe customers who buy travel mugs with art designed by students will get free coffee refills for a week, and The Bean will match the money raised by the students by up to $1,000.

“It’s been great to see community businesses jump on board and say it’s something they want to support,” said Amy Richards, a parent at the Neighborhood School with kids in kindergarten and the third grade. Read more…

Local Pols Bemoan Bloomberg’s After-School Cuts

IMG_3290Stephen Rex Brown One of the many students at yesterday’s rally against the cuts to after-school programs.

A panoply of politicians blasted Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposal to slash funding for after-school programs citywide yesterday, saying the cuts would have a particular impact on the Lower East Side.

“It’s outrageous,” said Councilwoman Margret Chin, whose district would lose seven out of 10 of its after-school programs if Mr. Bloomberg’s budget proposal is approved in its current form. “He needs to look at these kids and say, ‘You don’t count.'” Read more…

An Alternative to Tuition at Cooper Union

Students and faculty opposed to Cooper Union charging tuition for the first time in 110 years have released a detailed 32-page document dubbed “The Way Forward” that proposes a variety of methods to get the cash-strapped institution out of debt. “We would like to propose here that to consider introducing tuition is to consider selling out Cooper’s most precious asset: its ethos of equality and equity. There are alternatives,” it reads. The document’s release comes only hours before a “community summit” regarding the future of Cooper Union, which university president Jamshed Bharucha is expected to attend. Given yesterday’s protests, the meeting could get interesting.

N.Y.U. 2031’s Booers and Boosters Face Off Before Planning Commission

museumNatalie Rinn

Critics and supporters of N.Y.U.’s planned expansion in Greenwich Village pleaded their cases before the New York City Planning Commission yesterday. The exchange was a critical one, since the controversial project must be approved by the Commission and then by the City Council before construction can begin.

For more than seven hours at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, speakers gave three-minute testimonies in response to the university’s pending build-out of the school’s core campus south of Washington Square Park. With the museum’s stadium-style seating filled to capacity, President John Sexton faced hissing and intentional coughing as he explained why the university was in “desperate” need of additional space, and why so much of it needed to be located in Greenwich Village. Read more…

Peter Cooper, Swaddled! [UPDATED]

IMG_0061Stephen Rex Brown
guyagainSylvan Solloway Man on a monument.

A couple of hours after our initial report from Cooper Triangle, where Cooper Union students were getting ready to join a 4 p.m. protest in Union Square, we spotted the Peter Cooper monument being wrapped in red fabric. How’d they get that top corner?, you ask. Well, one student actually climbed to the very top of the granite canopy, 25 feet above the ground – a feat possibly more impressive than mounting George Washington’s horse. The red tape (a commentary on school bureaucracy?) is already gone.

The monument, carved by former Cooper Union student Augustus Saint-Gaudens and featuring columns designed by Stanford White, turns 115 on May 29.

Update | 5:44 p.m. An “epic scene” (according to one bystander) is playing out at the statue right now, as police and firefighters try to convince the protestor to get down from the top of the statue. Check here for further updates.

Cooper Union Students Protest Tuition and Debt

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.Lauren Carol Smith

Cooper Union students outraged at the university president’s decision to charge tuition to graduate students are staging a walk-out of classes that coincides with nationwide protests of the country’s massive student debt.

At around 4 p.m., students from Cooper Union will march to Union Square and join others from N.Y.U., CUNY, the New School and other nearby universities who are commemorating today’s milestone of $1 trillion in student debt.

Just before noon today around 30 students were mingling in Cooper Square, occasionally chanting “No tuition is our mission” and “Hey hey, ho ho, student debt has got to go,” and snacking on fresh veggies and bread. Read more…

Students Dismayed That Cooper Union Will Charge Graduate Tuition

"The Cooper Union"Kevin Farley

Opponents of tuition charges at Cooper Union are voicing disappointment at the school’s decision to begin asking tuition of graduate students. The move comes just days before a meeting in which students and faculty members will unveil their own strategies to bring solvency to the financially strapped school.

As The Times reported, Jamshed Bharucha, the school’s president, announced today that starting next year, graduate students will have to pay tuition fees currently covered by scholarships. Undergraduates enrolled for this fall and next year, he assured, will not be charged tuition, as some had feared would happen.

Alan Lundgard, the student council president who recently convinced media outlets that Cooper Union had sold its new academic building to NYU, welcomed the news that undergraduates were off the hook for the time being, but worried that they might be charged tuition in the future. “It’s a step in the right direction,” he told The Local, “but one step in the right direction and a step in the wrong direction don’t really get us anywhere.” Read more…

Street Scenes | Talk of a Walkout

IMG_0006Stephen Rex Brown

Inside the Abandoned Mary Help of Christians School

Photos: Daniel Maurer

The Local got a look inside the eerily abandoned Mary Help of Christians school when we visited the set of “Girl on the Train” last night. The school was closed in 2006 – a victim of Archdiocese of New York’s citywide restructuring – and its building is currently on the market along with the connected church, which closed in 2007 (though it still hosts Sunday masses).

Some of the old gymnasium’s floorboards have been uprooted and the paint is peeling off the walls, but remnants of the building’s former incarnation remain: a discarded pencil sharpener here, a school desk there, a handwritten sign on a closed door reading “Teacher’s Only!” Most haunting are the messages that linger on chalkboards: “Te amo Jesus, por favor habre nuestra iglesia” reads one (“I love you Jesus, please open our church”).

Have a glimpse inside, via our slideshow. (There’s just something about abandoned school buildings.) You’ll see some graffiti and equipment from the film shoot, but you’ll also see gloriously untouched murals, starting with one by Chico. It reads: “Mary Help of Christians Welcomes You.”

School of Hard Flips: Skateboarding Goes from Subculture to School Elective

skateRay Lemoine Benny Guerra (far right) with students.

On a recent afternoon, a 39-year-old man in army pants and a sweatshirt was skating the small ramps at the East Side Community High School’s playground. About three weeks ago, Benny Guerra, a native of Flushing, Queens, was hired to teach skateboaring at one of two East Village schools that offer skating – once the pastime of rebels and outcasts – as a proper elective.

Mr. Guerra, a painter with a degree from the School of Visual Arts, had been hoping to teach art, not ollieing. “Skating wasn’t even on my resume,” he told The Local in his new office, a shipping container plopped next to a basketball court that was filled with skate gear. But three weeks ago, he got a call from Billy Rohan, a skateboarding activist who ran the school’s skate park for five years with assistant principal Tom Mullen (Mr. Rohan now works full-time in advertising). “When Billy heard I was certified to teach,” said Mr. Guerra, “he said, ‘Get down here.’ It’s part-time for now but next year hopefully should be more.” Read more…

At Houston Mural, Retna Gives $5,000 for Budding Street Artists

retna checkTim SchreierRetna (right) with Mista Oh! (left) and mentors from The Art School w/out Walls.

Marquis Lewis, a.k.a. Retna, returned to the scene of his Houston Street mural today, to donate $5,000 to a program that teaches at-risk youth to create street art similar to his own.

The artist, who painted “A Conversation with a Great Friend” on the wall at Houston Street and Bowery last week, said that his donation to the Gowanus-based organization, Cre8tive YouTH*ink, was triggered, appropriately enough, by a conversation between friends in which Carlo McCormick, an East Villager and the Senior Editor of Paper magazine, connected him to Jerry Otero, a.k.a. Mista Oh!, an educator who runs the non-profit.

Last year, Mr. Otero, along with artist Ray Smith, launched The Art School w/out Walls, a program that connects at-risk kids in low-income neighborhoods with mentors who help them create public art. The program aims to expand into dance, music, and sports – hence the $5,000 check that Retna handed over at the wall today. Read more…

D.A.’s Office Invites More Kids to Bury Their Beefs, With Basketball

basketballLaura Edwins At Henry Street Settlement on Saturday.

District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. spent last Saturday night watching a basketball game, but not because he had scored Knicks tickets, or because his kids were playing – he was in the East Village, and none of the 12- to 19-year-olds on the court were his own.

“It’s a crime-fighting strategy,” he explained at the Boys and Girls Republic Gym at Henry Street Settlement. “I’d rather be in the back row of the gym watching a basketball game than in the back row of a courtroom watching a kid in trouble.”

In January, Mr. Vance’s office, along with the police department’s Police Athletic League and the Drug Enforcement Administration, launched an eight-week basketball training program that concluded with a tournament last weekend. Read more…