Vol. 13, No. 16 Aug.  24 - Sept. 6, 2000


Officials Line Up For Schools in Armory


One by one, elected and public officials took to a platform in front of the Kingsbrige Armory on Aug. 10 to declare their opposition to the Giuliani administration's plans to transform the vacant and dilapidated Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping and entertainment complex and to voice their support for using the facility for educational purposes.

"It's time to tell the city's leaders that overcrowding in this community is not something we're going to take anymore," said Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the powerful labor union representing city teachers. In front of a cheering section of local teenagers holding signs and chanting, "School Halls, Not Shopping Malls," Weingarten endorsed a proposal by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, that calls for three public schools at the armory, and other cultural, community and recreational uses.

Congressman Eliot Engel said he supported the coalition's plan "wholeheartedly," and that the mayor's plan was misguided.

"We don't need more commercial development in this area," Engel said.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz agreed. "The last thing Kingsbridge Heights needs is large-scale commercial development," he said. "The mayor's plan has got to go."

Oliver Koppell, president of Community School Board 10, called it "a crime that this site is not allocated for educational purposes and recreational purposes." He also mentioned the desperate conditions faced by kids and staff two blocks away at PS 246, a tiny overcrowded building constructed as a home for the blind.

Superintendent Irma Zardoya outlined the space crisis perennially facing District 10. She said that the district would have to return $2.5 million earmarked for pre-kindergarten programs, because there was no space to put the children.

In a statement, Councilman Adolfo Carrion, whose district includes the armory, said, "The need for schools in the west Bronx is too important to disregard. The armory affords us an excellent opportunity to address the educational and economic concerns of our community."

Councilwoman June Eisland, who chairs the Land Use Committee and was represented at the event by her chief of staff, Judith Kramer, is concerned that the city may not put their plan through the land use review process, known as ULURP, customary for such large projects.

"As chair of the Council's Land Use Committee, it's my hope that the EDC will use the ULURP process," Eisland said. "We will have the opportunity then to press forward for the critically important reclamation and development of the armory and for more schools for District 10."

Ironically, while the rally was in progress, environmental abatement engineers and officials of the city's Economic Development Corporation were surveying the condition of the armory.

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