Statement by New York State Senator Duane before the Youth, Education & Libraries Committee of Community Board 7, the District 3 Community Education Council, and the District 3 Presidents' Council Regarding the Need For A New School in the Riverside Center Development

May 24, 2010

My name is Thomas K. Duane and I represent New York State's 29th Senate District, which includes the Upper West Side where Extell Development Company's (Extell) proposed Riverside Center will be located. I thank Manhattan Community Board 7 (CB7), the District 3 Community Education Council (CEC3), and the District 3 Presidentsf Council for drawing attention to the need for a school in the development to mitigate the persistent and systemic overcrowding of our community schools, which, without remediation, would only be exacerbated as families with school-age children occupy Riverside Center's five proposed residential or mixed use towers. I am particularly grateful to Mark Diller, Chair of CB7's Youth, Education Libraries Committee, for organizing this hearing.

While members of the community have articulated many concerns about the Riverside Center development that will be considered during the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), I am pleased that there is no dispute regarding the urgent need for a new school on the site. I, along with many of my colleagues in government, CB7 and other stakeholders, have met with Extell, as well as the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA), to advocate that this school serve grades Kindergarten through eight (K-8), and open as soon as possible. I thank Extell for hearing our concerns and for including such a school in its plan certified by the New York City Planning Commission earlier today.

As you know, the site for which Riverside Center has been proposed – from West 59 to West 61 Streets between West End Avenue and Riverside Boulevard – is located in the southern end of Community School District 3 (D3). The past decadefs development boom – including the large residential buildings in Riverside South that have already been occupied – has brought unprecedented numbers of new school-age children into the area. Furthermore, there has been a marked increase in the percentage of D3 students attending their zoned schools, yet there has been no commensurate increase in school seats. The failure of the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and SCA to take these factors into account when developing enrollment projections and utilization rates on which to base capital planning produced severe overcrowding in many D3 schools. This problem is particularly striking now as DOE is in the process of making alternate offers for fall 2010 to families of children who were denied seats at their zoned schools.

For many years, I have joined public school parents and parent associations, CEC3, CB7, and other local elected officials in calling for a new school in D3fs southern end. While to date, overcrowding in this area has largely been concentrated in select elementary schools, enrollment trends and continued large-scale residential development suggest that widespread elementary and middle school overcrowding is imminent. I am therefore pleased that Extell has proposed a K-8 school that would be large enough to both absorb new students living in Riverside Center and alleviate overcrowding in the areafs existing elementary and middle schools. I also applaud Extell's commitment to include this school in the first building to be constructed on the site. That said, a number of issues related to the school remain uncertain, including the exact size of the facility; however, I am confident that these issues will be settled in the best interest of the community during ULURP, with ample consideration given to the concerns expressed at this evening's hearing.

Once again, I thank you for holding this hearing and I look forward to working with all of you to ensure that the approved plan for Riverside Center includes the high-capacity K-8 school that our community desperately needs..

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