Vol. 17, No. 18 Sept. 9 - 22, 2004


City Explores Sites For Celia Cruz School


The Department of Education (DOE) is investigating whether a permanent site for the Celia Cruz High School of Music can be found after parents protested its move from DeWitt Clinton High School earlier this year. 

While now housed at Walton High School, parents of students at the 2-year-old small theme school are upset that it was abruptly moved after Clinton's powerful alumni association intervened. 

On a recent edition of BronxTalk, the cable talk show hosted by Gary Axelbank on channel 67, Cruz parents said the city was considering moving the school to the site of a building on the eastern perimeter of the Jerome Park Reservoir that once housed a demonstration filtration plant. 

That possibility, explored by the city's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) angered some local activists. "You can't start building schools in parks," said Anne Marie Garti of the Jerome Park Conservancy, a volunteer group, noting that the DEP promised to demolish the plant and restore the area as parkland. "We would oppose it with full force."

But Cruz' chances of using the site appear slim anyway. According to DEP spokesperson Charles Sturcken, the School Construction Authority considered the building too costly to renovate. "They said it wasn't worth their while," Sturcken said.

The DEP also proposed using a building at the Jerome Avenue Pumping Station, just south of Tracey Towers, for a temporary school site, which Sturcken says DOE also rejected. "They are looking for something permanent," he said. 

But DOE would not confirm or deny whether they are still exploring those sites. "The community has been making suggestions and we are looking into them," said Michelle McManus, a DOE spokesperson. 

Cruz is one of several theme schools that the city seeks stand-alone spaces for, according to McManus. "There are a few schools in similar situations to Cruz that are being incubated in spaces," she said.

But parents are less than thrilled with Cruz' temporary quarters. "We don't want to bury it in Walton," said Soledad Franco, a Cruz parent. Franco and many of the school's parents are worried about Walton's severe overcrowding problem and its reputation for being unsafe. 

In a recent meeting with Superintendent Irma Zardoya and Deputy Mayor Dennis 
Walcott, Cruz parents were encouraged to give Walton a shot, according to Franco. "They emphasized that there have been safety improvements," she said.

But parents are determined for Cruz to stand on its own. "We're not giving up," 
said Franco, who is planning a fundraiser to pay for assistance in identifying additional locations in the area. "We're not staying quiet."

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